What is diabetic retinopathy?
Retinopathy is a
disease of the retina. The
retina is the nerve layer that lines the back of your
eye. It is the part of your eye that "takes pictures" and sends the images to
your brain. Many people with diabetes get retinopathy. This kind of retinopathy
diabetic retinopathy (retinal disease caused by
Diabetic retinopathy can lead to poor vision and even
blindness. Most of the time, it gets worse over many years. At first, the blood
vessels in the eye get weak. This can lead to blood and other liquid leaking
into the retina from the blood vessels. This is called nonproliferative retinopathy. And this is the most common retinopathy. If the fluid leaks into the center of your eye, you may have blurry vision. Most people with nonproliferative retinopathy have no symptoms.
If blood sugar levels stay high, diabetic retinopathy
will keep getting worse. New blood vessels grow on the retina. This may sound
good, but these new blood vessels are weak. They can break open very easily,
even while you are sleeping. If they break open, blood can leak into the middle
part of your eye in front of the retina and change your vision. This bleeding
can also cause scar tissue to form, which can pull on the retina and cause the
retina to move away from the wall of the eye (retinal detachment). This is called proliferative retinopathy. Sometimes people don't have symptoms until it is too late to treat them. This is why having eye exams regularly is so important.
Retinopathy can also cause swelling of the
macula of the eye. This is called
macular edema. The
macula is the middle of the retina, which lets you see
details. When it swells, it can make your vision much worse. It can even cause
What causes diabetic retinopathy?
If you are not able to keep your blood sugar
levels in a target range, it can cause damage to your blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy
happens when high blood sugar damages the tiny blood vessels of the
When you have diabetic retinopathy, high blood pressure
can make it worse. High blood pressure can cause more damage to the weakened
vessels in your eye, clouding more of your vision.
What are the symptoms?
Most of the time, there
are no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy until it starts to change your vision.
When this happens, diabetic retinopathy is already severe. Having your eyes
checked regularly can find diabetic retinopathy early enough to treat
it and help prevent vision loss.
If you notice problems with your
vision, call an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) right away. Changes in
vision can be a sign of severe damage to your eye. These changes can include
floaters, pain in the eye, blurry vision, or new vision loss.
How is diabetic retinopathy diagnosed?