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Diabetic Retinopathy

If you have diabetes mellitus, you know how your body's inability to use and store sugar can affect your health. When your blood sugar gets too high, it can damage the blood vessels in your eyes. This damage may lead to diabetic retinopathy.

Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

When the blood vessels in the retina are damaged, they can leak fluid or bleed. This causes the retina to swell and form deposits called exudates.
This is an early form of diabetic retinopathy called non-proliferative or background retinopathy. You may not notice any change in your vision when you develop this early form of the disease, but it can lead to other more serious forms of retinopathy that may affect your vision.

When fluid collects in the macula, reading and other close work may become difficult. This is called macular edema. In proliferative retinopathy, new, fragile blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These new blood vessels are called neovascularization, and can lead to serious vision problems, because the new vessels can break and bleed into the vitreous. When the vitreous becomes clouded with blood, light is prevented from passing through the eye to the retina. This can blur or distort vision. The new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to develop, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This is known as a retinal detachment, and can lead to blindness if untreated. In addition, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris.

How Do I Know If I Have Diabetic Retinopathy?

You might not. There are often no symptoms of early diabetic retinopathy. Your ophthalmologist can tell you if you show signs of diabetic eye disease by looking at the inside of the eye with a special instrument called an ophthalmoscope. To see better, your doctor may dilate your pupil with eye drops.

That Are The Symptoms Of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Although diabetic retinopathy can severely damage your vision, it is not painful. In fact, the early form of the disease called non-proliferative or background retinopathy often produces no symptoms.

  • If non-proliferative retinopathy leads to macular edema, you may notice a gradual blurring of your vision, and have difficulty doing close work such as reading.
  • If the abnormal blood vessels associated with proliferative retinopathy bleed, vision may become spotty, hazy, or disappear completely.

However, because diabetic retinopathy often causes no symptoms even in advanced cases it is extremely important to have a yearly dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist. Diabetic retinopathy can be treated, and vision loss possibly prevented if it is caught early enough.