Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that weakens the blood vessels that supply nourishment to the retina (the light-sensitive lining in the back of the eye where vision is focused). These weak vessels can leak, swell or develop thin branches, causing a loss of vision. Changes to your vision may not be noticeable at first. In its advanced stages, the disease can cause blurred or cloudy vision, floaters, blind spots, and eventually blindness. This damage is irreversible. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye complication and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. Fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, which in turn blurs the vision. This condition is called macular edema and often occurs with diabetic retinopathy.
How to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy
Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy is preventable. Your risk is reduced if you follow your prescribed diet and medications, exercise regularly, control your blood pressure, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
Regular eye exams are an integral part of making sure your eyes are healthy. Often there are no symptoms or pain in the early stages of the disease. Don’t wait for symptoms. Be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
Although damage caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be corrected, patients diagnosed with the condition can be treated to slow its progression and prevent further vision loss. Treatment modalities include laser and surgical procedures.