Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a secondary complication of diabetes and is caused by changes in the retina’s blood vessels. Small blood vessels swell, leak and hemorrhage into the retina, blurring vision, and occasionally leading to blindness.

In its advanced stages, diabetes may lead to new blood vessel growth over the retina. The new blood vessels can break and cause scar tissue to develop, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This is known as retinal detachment, and it can lead to blindness if untreated. In addition, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris, which can lead to glaucoma.

People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose vision than those who are not diabetic, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Risk Factors

Approximately 4.1 million Americans with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy. Anyone with diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, is at risk for developing this condition. Anyone with diabetes is at risk for sight loss. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and other eye problems related to diabetes are:


  • Fluctuating vision
  • Eye floaters and spots
  • Development of a scotoma or shadow in your field of view
  • Blurry and/or distorted vision
  • Corneal abnormalities such as slow healing of wounds due to corneal abrasions
  • Double vision
  • Eye pain
  • Near vision problems unrelated to presbyopia
  • Cataracts

Treatments

When detected and treated in a timely fashion, significant vision loss can usually be avoided. Yearly eye examinations, at a minimum, are necessary for diabetics, as diabetic retinopathy has no warning signs. Any vision lost to diabetic retinopathy cannot be restored. Though in these cases, low vision devices can help by improving vision to compensate for what was lost.