Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. The retina is responsible for converting light into electrical signals that are sent to the brain, where they are interpreted as images. Diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss and blindness if left untreated.
There are two main types of diabetic retinopathy: non-proliferative and proliferative. Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the early stage of the condition and is characterized by small changes in the blood vessels in the retina. These changes can cause swelling and leakage of fluid in the retina, which can result in mild vision loss. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the advanced stage of the condition and is characterized by the growth of new blood vessels on the surface of the retina or in the vitreous, the clear gel that fills the middle of the eye. These new blood vessels can bleed and cause severe vision loss and even blindness.
The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the duration of diabetes and the severity of blood sugar control. People with type 1 diabetes are at higher risk than people with type 2 diabetes. Regular eye exams are crucial for people with diabetes to catch any potential issues early on.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Blurred vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Dark spots or floaters in the vision
- Vision loss
Diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy can be done by one of our optometrists through a comprehensive eye exam which includes dilating the pupils to examine the retina. Additional testing such as a retinal photography and optical coherence tomography (OCT) can also be performed.
It is important to note that diabetic retinopathy can progress even when no symptoms are present. That is why regular eye exams are crucial for people with diabetes, to catch any potential issues early on and prevent vision loss.
Effective management of diabetes through maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and regular physical activity can help reduce the risk and progression of diabetic retinopathy.