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Diabetic Retinopathy

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that can result in the loss of vision or even blindness. It’s the most common form of vision loss associated with diabetes.  

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

The early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are typically not noticeable. They will come and go, often including seeing faraway objects or increased difficulty with reading. As the disease progresses, symptoms will evolve to include dark spots or streaks in one’s vision, vision loss, or complete blindness. 

There are possible complications of this condition as well, such as neovascular glaucoma, retinal detachment, and diabetic macular edema. 

What causes diabetic retinopathy?

High levels of sugar caused by diabetes can lead to damage of the retina, as the blood vessels leading to it become blocked. The result is leaks or bleeds in the vessels, which then causes the characteristic symptoms. In addition, the body will try to grow new blood vessels to replace the blocked ones, but these vessels are prone to leaking or bleeding as well. 

In terms of risk factors, any person with any form of diabetes is susceptible. The risk increases with the amount of time one has had diabetes. Pregnancy also raises the risk. 

How is diabetic retinopathy diagnosed?

A dilated eye exam is the only diagnostic test needed to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. As people with diabetes should receive regular eye exams, this condition is most typically diagnosed during one of these visits. 

What are the treatments for diabetic retinopathy?

In the early stages of the disorder, maintenance is the only treatment. Doctors will perform eye exams very regularly to monitor disease progression. If the disease has progressed, treatment can work to prevent any further vision loss, although it cannot reverse any damage. Treatment options include injections of anti-VEGF drugs or corticosteroids, vitrectomy, and laser treatment. 

There are steps to prevent diabetic retinopathy as well, all of which relate to managing diabetes. Follow doctor’s instructions, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and try to maintain a normal blood sugar level. 

Where can I find out more about diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy Articles