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Diabetic Retinopathy

In the advanced stages connective scar tissue forms in association with new blood vessel growth causing additional distortion and blurriness. Diabetes is a condition that can interfere with the body’s ability to use and store sugar. Diabetes can also over time weaken and cause changes in the small blood vessels that nourish the eye’s light sensitive retina. When this occurs it is called diabetic retinopathy. These changes may include leaking of blood development of newly formed fragile vessels and enlargement of certain parts of the vessels. Diabetic retinopathy can seriously affect vision and if left untreated cause blindness.

Since this disease can cause blindness early diagnosis and treatment is essential. That’s one reason why it is important to have your eyes examined periodically especially if you are a diabetic or if you have a family history of diabetes. During a thorough comprehensive eye examination your optometrist gets to know you your family history your lifestyle and your vision needs. To detect diabetic retinopathy your doctor can look inside your eyes with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope which lights and magnifies the blood vessels in your eyes.

The beginning stages of diabetic retinopathy may cause blurriness in your central or peripheral (side) vision or it may produce no visual symptoms at all. Symptoms depend on where the blood vessel changes are taking place in your eye’s retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye where images are focused). As diabetic retinopathy progresses you may notice a cloudiness in your vision blind spots or floaters. This is usually caused by blood leaking from abnormal new vessels which blocks light from reaching the retina.

In the advanced stages connective scar tissue forms in association with new blood vessel growth causing additional distortion and blurriness. Over time this tissue can shrink and detach the retina by pulling it toward the center of the eye.

Once diabetic retinopathy has been diagnosed laser and other surgical treatments can be used to reduce the progression of this eye disease and decrease the risk of vision loss. If you experience vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy special low vision aids can help maximize your remaining vision. Some of the optical aids available include telescopic lenses for distance vision microscopic lenses magnifying glasses and electronic magnifiers for close work.

Not every diabetic patient develops retinopathy but the chances of getting it do increase after having diabetes for several years. Evidence also suggests that such factors as pregnancy high blood pressure and smoking may cause diabetic eye disease to develop or worsen. As a diabetic or person at risk it is important that you take steps to help prevent the development of diabetic retinopathy including:

  • Take your prescribed medication as instructed
  • Follow a proper diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Have your eyes examined regularly

By doing so chances are good that you can enjoy a lifetime of good vision and health.