DIABETIC EYE DISEASE
WHAT IS DIABETIC EYE DISEASE?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.
In some people, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.
If you have diabetic eye disease, at first, you may not notice changes to your vision. But over time, the disease can get worse and cause vision loss as well as affect both eyes.
WHO IS AT RISK?
All people with diabetes—both type 1 and type 2—are at risk. That’s why everyone with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get the disease. Between 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of the disease. If you have the disease, your doctor can recommend treatment to help prevent its progression.
During pregnancy, women with diabetes may be more at risk. To protect vision, every pregnant woman with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible. Your doctor may recommend additional exams during your pregnancy.
Often, there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, nor is there any pain. Don’t wait for signs. Be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
Blurred vision may occur when the macula—the part of the retina that provides sharp central vision—swells from leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema.
If new blood vessels grow on the retina’s surface, they can bleed into the eye and block vision.