Thomas B. Wood, OD

Mary J. Mantini, OD

Clear Vision Begins with Healthy Eyes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy

Normal Eye

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition occurring in persons with diabetes, which causes progressive damage to the retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye. It is a serious sight-threatening complication of diabetes.

 

Diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina as shown in the photo on the left as compared with a normal, healthy retina depicted on the right. They leak blood and other fluids that cause swelling of retinal tissue and clouding of vision. The condition usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.

 

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Seeing spots or floaters in your field of vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
  • Difficulty seeing well at night

 

In patients with diabetes, prolonged periods of high blood sugar can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the lens inside the eye that controls eye focusing. This changes the curvature of the lens and results in the development of symptoms of blurred vision. The blurring of distance vision as a result of lens swelling will subside once the blood sugar levels are brought under control. Better control of blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes also slows the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy.

 

If you are a diabetic, you can help prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by taking your prescribed medication, sticking to your diet, exercising regularly, controlling high blood pressure and avoiding alcohol and smoking.

 

Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Diabetes people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are at risk for the development of diabetic retinopathy. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy, particularly if the diabetes is poorly controlled.
  • Race Hispanic and African Americans are at greater risk for developing diabetic retinopathy.
  • Medical conditions persons with other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at greater risk.
  • Pregnancy pregnant women face a higher risk for developing diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. If gestational diabetes develops, the patient is at much higher risk of developing diabetes as they age.