Is the most common complication of diabetes that affects the eyes and affects over 5.3 million Americans, 18 years old or older. It is caused by damage to the blood vessels of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only slight vision problems, however, eventually, it can result in blindness. Diabetic retinopathy can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer a person has diabetes and the less controlled their blood sugar is, the higher at risk they are.
- Fluctuating vision
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
- Vision loss
- Difficulty with color perception
Patients with diabetes prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by taking prescribed medication as directed maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, controlling high blood pressure and abnormal blood cholesterol levels, and avoiding alcohol and smoking. If the disease does develop, the potential for significant vision loss can be reduced by more aggressive blood sugar, pressure and cholesterol control. In addition, newer medications for retinopathy have recently been shown to be very effective for preserving, and sometimes improving vision.
There are several factors that can influence someone with diabetes to develop diabetic retinopathy. These include poor blood sugar, blood pressure and blood lipid control, the length of time they’ve had diabetes, race and family history. African Americans and Hispanics are twice as likely to have diabetes.
If you have diabetes, see your eye doctor for a yearly-dilated eye exam — even if your vision seems fine — because it’s important to detect diabetic retinopathy in the early stages.