Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that damages blood vessels supplying nourishment to the retina. Damaged vessels can leak, or become occluded, causing a loss of vision. Leakage from damaged vessels may cause swelling of the retina (macular edema) which can blur vision. Lack of blood supply caused by diabetic retinopathy may cause the formation of abnormal new vessels, which may bleed within the eye and result in vision loss (vitreous hemorrhage). In its advanced stages, the disease can cause blurred or cloudy vision, floaters, blind spots – and, eventually, blindness. Although the damage to blood vessels is irreversible and progressive, treatment is often helpful.
Fortunately, people with diabetes may reduce their risk of retinopathy by following a prescribed diet and medication regimen developed and monitored by their endocrinologist or internal medicine physician. Regular exercise, blood pressure control, and avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption also reduce risk of vision loss. Routine eye exams, and timely treatment, are integral parts of making sure your eyes are healthy.
Although damage caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be reversed, patients can be treated to slow its progression and prevent further vision loss. Treatment modalities include laser, intra-ocular medications, and surgical procedures.