What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication brought on by diabetes where the retina, the lightsensitive tissue that lines the inner surface of the eye, is damaged. Diabetes causes abnormal changes in the body’s blood sugar levels. High levels of blood sugar can alter the blood flow to the body’s organs, including the eyes. Eye damage occurs when chronically high amounts of blood sugar begin to clog or damage the blood vessels within the eye’s retina.
Untreated, Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to blindness. 80% of those that have diabetes for 10 years or more, will be affected by Diabetic Retinopathy. Of these cases, 90% can be reduced by proper treatment and regular monitoring of the eyes.
Discover our visual aids for Diabetic Retinopathy.
Normal vision vs. Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic Retinopathy has four stages:
- Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy
At this earliest stage, micro aneurysms occur. They are small areas of balloon-like swellings in the retina’s tiny blood vessels.
- Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy
As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
- Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy
Many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina with their blood supply. These areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood
vessels for nourishment.
- Proliferative Retinopathy
At this advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. They grow along the retina and along the surface of the clear, vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye. By themselves, these blood vessels do not cause symptoms or vision loss. However, they have thin, fragile walls. If they leak blood, severe vision loss and even blindness can result.
What are the symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Symptoms that you may experience are:
- fluctuating vision
- eye floaters and spots
- shadows in your field of view
- blurry and/or distorted vision
- double vision
- eye pain
What to expect from Diabetic Retinopathy
There is no cure for Diabetic Retinopathy. However, various treatments are available that can reduce the symptoms. The best way to address Diabetic Retinopathy is regular monitoring of the eyes and proper treatment. If you have diabetes, be sure to have regular eye tests to monitor if you are developing Diabetic Retinopathy. Discuss this with your physician or specialist.
More information about Diabetic Retinopathy
There is extensive information available about Diabetic Retinopathy. The information included is intended to inform you about the basics of this eye condition, and is not intended as a replacement for information from your physician or eye specialist. Information regarding assistive devices that can help you if you have been diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy is included. Our recommendations can be found under Tools and Resources.