Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetic eye disease that affects the blood vessels in the retina. It is one of the most common causes of vision loss in working-age adults. Those that have the disease have chronically high blood sugar, which can cause damage to the blood vessels. The vessels may leak or hemorrhage as a result. If the condition is not treated, abnormal blood vessels can form on the retina’s surface, leading to scarring and cell loss.
Over 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, and another 86 million have prediabetes. Sadly, one in four people do not know they even have the disease, which means they probably aren’t taking the appropriate measures to manage the symptoms. With so many people affected by diabetes, it’s important to get updated on the latest and most surprising facts about diabetic retinopathy.
The initial stages of diabetic eye disease generally have no symptoms.
Unfortunately, most people do not know that they have diabetic retinopathy until they discover changes in their vision. By this time, there may be permanent damage depending on how far the condition has progressed. The most common early signs include floating spots and bleeding.
Early detection and treatment may lower the risk for blindness by 95 percent.
Because it’s not always easy to detect the signs of diabetic eye disease, it’s imperative that you see your eye doctor regularly, especially if you have diabetes or prediabetes. Your eye doctor will perform a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year. Early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can lessen the risk of vision loss by as much as 95 percent!
There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy does not go from Point A to Point Z overnight; it’s a gradual process that includes four stages:
- Mild proliferative retinopathy: The blood vessels swell and may leak fluid into the retina.
- Moderate proliferative retinopathy: The blood vessels continue to swell and can no longer provide nourishment to the retina.
- Severe proliferative retinopathy: More blood vessels are blocked from bringing blood to the retina. This signals the retina to grow more of them.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR): New blood vessels grow, but they are abnormal. They grow along the inside surface of the retina, leading to leaking, bleeding, scarring, and even retinal detachment.
Dilated eye exams are the key to diagnosing diabetic eye disease.
Comprehensive dilated eye exams may be recommended at least once a year depending on your personal risk factors. An eye exam of this sort allows your ophthalmologist to look for changes in your blood vessels, changes in the lens, damage to the nerve tissue, and swelling of the macula. In fact, some eye doctors believe that high-risk patients need these exams every 2 to 4 months.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, talk to your eye specialist about the best ways to protect your vision.