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Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. It can cause vision loss.

What is the Retina?

The retina is a light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. When light enters the eye, the retina changes the light into nerve signals. The retina the nerve signals along the optic nerve to the brain. Without a retina, the eye cannot communicate with the brain, making vision impossible.

Who is at Risk for Developing Diabetic Retinopathy?

Everyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but not all diabetics do develop it.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

The most common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are:

  • Blurred vision
  • Floaters and flashes
  • Difficulty reading
  • Double vision
  • Sudden loss of vision

Can Diabetic Retinopathy be Prevented?

Yes. You can decrease your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by:

  • Keep your blood sugar under control.
  • Monitor your blood pressure and keep it under control.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Have an eye exam every 12 months.

Can Diabetic Retinopathy be Treated?

Yes. If diabetic retinopathy is detected in the early stages, treatment will help minimize the chance of developing substantial vision loss. Early detection can be made possible via a dilated eye exam at least once a year.

Treatment options will depend on the severity and the type of eye problems the patient is experiencing.

The most common treatments for diabetic retinopathy are:

  • Laser photocoagulation
    • Laser photocoagulation is a procedure that involves sealing off leaking blood vessels and destroying new growth.
    • Laser photocoagulation doesn't cause pain, because the retina does not contain nerve endings.
  • Vitrectomy
    • Vitrectomy is a procedure that involves removing blood that has leaked into the vitreous humor.
    • The body gradually replaces lost vitreous humor, and vision usually improves.
  • Cataracts can be corrected via surgery

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