Diabetic Retinopathy and Other Eye Problems
What eye problems are often associated with diabetes?
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that may occur in persons with diabetes as a complication. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. Diabetic eye disease can often be treated before vision loss occurs. All people with diabetes should have a dilated eye examination at least once a year.
Diabetic eye diseases include the following:
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease in persons with diabetes.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid, while in others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy cannot be completely avoided, but the risk can be greatly reduced. Better control of blood sugar level slows the onset and progression of retinopathy and reduces the need for laser surgery for severe retinopathy.
What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
A person with an early stage of diabetic retinopathy may be asymptomatic and without pain. Vision may not change until the disease progresses.
A condition called macular edema may occur when the macula, a part of the retina, swells from the leaking fluid and causes blurred vision. When new vessels grow on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye, blocking vision.
Who is at risk for diabetic retinopathy?
Anyone with diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely he/she will develop diabetic retinopathy.
Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?
Although diabetic retinopathy cannot be prevented, the risk of developing it can be reduced by:
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy:
Specific treatment for diabetic retinopathy will be determined by your physician based on:
your age, overall health, and medical history
extent of the disease
your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
expectations for the course of the disease
your opinion or preference
Diabetic retinopathy is often treated with laser surgery to shrink the abnormal blood vessels or to seal the leaking ones.