What you need to know about diabetic retinopathy

One thing people may not know about is that diabetes can affect your vision. This complication is called diabetic retinopathy, which is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the back of the eye, or retina.

Here are eight things you should know about diabetic retinopathy:

  • This condition can occur in people who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 

  • It’s important to manage your diabetes and control your blood sugar to reduce your risk of developing this serious eye complication. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish your eye’s retina. This cuts off the blood supply, and the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels. The new blood vessels, however, don’t develop how they should and can leak. 

  • Patients who have diabetic retinopathy may not experience any symptoms or only have mild vision problems. 

  • Symptoms may include spots or floaters in your vision, blurred vision, fluctuating vision, vision loss, impaired color vision, or dark or empty areas in your vision. 

  • Diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness if not treated.

  • Pregnancy can worsen diabetic retinopathy, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your vision during pregnancy and have additional eye exams as necessary. 

  • If you have sudden vision changes such as blurred vision, spotty or hazy vision, contact your eye doctor right away. 

  • In addition to having diabetes for a long time or poor control of your blood sugar levels, other risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pregnancy, tobacco use and being African-American, Hispanic or Native American.

Diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed with a comprehensive dilated eye exam. This consists of placing drops in your eyes to widen or dilate your pupils for the doctor to get a better view inside your eyes. Once diagnosed, treatment may consist of conservative methods such as improving diabetes management or advanced treatment options such as surgery for more severe cases.

To learn more about this condition and to make an appointment, call (508) 836-8733.

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