What Every Diabetic Should Know About Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic Retinopathy, a progressive disease of the retina, is a common complication of diabetes and one of the leading causes of blindness. The condition occurs when small blood vessels in the back of the eye are damaged by a build-up of glucose or fructose. This damage causes progressive vision loss in two ways: proliferative retinopathy, when abnormal blood vessels form and leak into the center of the eye, and macular edema, when fluid leaks into the macula, the part of the eye responsible for sharp central vision. Sometimes the blood vessels in the eye will provide the clearest indication of broader medical disorders like diabetes and hypertension, telling the story that the rest of the body may not.
Anyone with diabetes—type 1 or type 2—is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. The disease often has no early warning signs and can become advanced without any outward indications, which is why it is critical for all diabetics to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Blurred vision, “floaters”, and double vision can all be symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, but an individual at risk should not wait for symptoms before scheduling an exam. With timely treatment and care, most patients with diabetic retinopathy can avoid substantial vision loss.