Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that damages blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye. At first, diabetic retinopathy may produce no symptoms or merely slight eyesight issues. Ultimately, it can lead to complete vision loss.
The condition can grow in individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer one has diabetes and the less regulated your blood sugar is, the likelier one is to develop diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is triggered by high blood sugar due to diabetes. Over time, experiencing high levels of sugar in your blood can harm your retina — the section of your eye that identifies light and delivers signs to your brain via a nerve in the back of your eye (optic nerve).
Diabetes injures blood vessels throughout the body. The destruction to your eyes begins when sugar blocks the small blood vessels that go to your retina, triggering them to seep fluid or bleed. To counteract these blocked blood vessels, your eyes then create new blood vessels that do not perform well. These new blood vessels can seep or bleed easily.
You may not experience symptoms in the beginning stages of diabetic retinopathy. As the diabetic retinopathy progresses, symptoms may include:
Diabetic retinopathy typically affects both eyes.
Regular eye exams will reduce the risk of vision loss and blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy. All people with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, so the best management to reduce your chance of losing sight with diabetic retinopathy is strict control of your blood sugar levels, as well as close management with an annual dilated eye exam.
Strategies for preventing or monitoring diabetic retinopathy include effective diabetes management such as better control of blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol. Good management will help delay the development of retinopathy and regular eye examinations, early diagnosis and treatment can usually prevent severe vision loss. It is important to have your eyes tested when diabetes is first diagnosed.
When it is required, laser and anti-VEGF treatment is used successfully to treat sight loss associated with severe diabetic retinopathy.