People with diabetes are unfortunately at a higher risk for numerous diabetic eye diseases, which can lead to severe vision loss and sometimes even blindness. Diabetic eye diseases include cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that damages the blood vessels in the retina, and usually affects both eyes. Diabetic retinopathy can affect people with Type I and Type II diabetes. There are four stages to diabetic retinopathy:
- Mild Non-proliferative Retinopathy – Minor swelling occurs in small regions in the tiny blood vessels of the retina.
- Moderate Non-proliferative Retinopathy – The blood vessels in the retina are blocked.
- Severe Non-proliferative Retinopathy – The blockage of the blood vessels causes malnourishment to the retina, which causes the retina to send signals to the body to create new blood vessels.
- Proliferative Retinopathy – The newly formed blood vessels develop along the surface of the retina, and are very fragile. Their fragility can cause them to leak, which can cause severe vision loss and even blindness. This stage can also cause macular edema, which can lead to vision loss.
There are no common symptoms present during the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. If you experience blurred vision or “floating” spots, contact your Ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
People with diabetes can help prevent the development of diabetic retinopathy by carefully managing their blood sugar level and blood pressure. If a person is in the final stage of diabetic retinopathy (Proliferative Retinopathy), laser treatments are available to help shrink the fragile blood vessels, which can ultimately preserve the rest of their sight.