What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Group of adults with diabetic retinopathy smiling

If you have an underlying medical condition, you are at an increased risk of developing eye diseases. Retina complications are not unusual for patients with conditions that inhibit how their blood vessels function.

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that affects patients with type I and type II diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy causes damage to the blood vessels found in the retina and usually affects both eyes.

When left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to severe vision impairment. Even worse, diabetic retinopathy can eventually lead to blindness.

As such, early detection and treatment of the condition are crucial. Keep reading to learn more about diabetic retinopathy!

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is an ocular disease that’s common in diabetic patients. The condition affects blood vessels in the retina as a result of high blood sugar levels.

The vessels swell and then leak. This cuts off nourishment to the macula, which is what handles central vision.

This leads to blurry vision or blind spots in your vision. The blood vessels may also become blocked, which still cuts off nourishment to the macula. Diabetic retinopathy is a major cause of vision impairment and blindness in the United States.

Am I at Risk of Developing Diabetic Retinopathy?

If you have any kind of diabetes, including Type I, Type II, or gestational diabetes, then you are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. But the risk is higher among diabetic patients who also have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.

Does Diabetic Retinopathy Progress?

Diabetic retinopathy progresses in two main stages, which are:

NDR (Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy)

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the early stage. This stage is characterized by swelling and leaking blood vessels.

The fluids released then cause the macula to swell, a condition that’s referred to as macular edema. Another possibility in this stage is that the vessels close off.

Finally, particles known as exudates may form in the retina. The main symptom during the NDR stage is blurry vision.

PDR (Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy)

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the advanced stage of this eye condition. During this stage, new blood vessels grow to make up for the ones being blocked.

These new vessels are usually fragile, making them more likely to bulge and rupture. When they burst, they bleed inside the vitreous, which is the gel found between the lens and the retina.

Little bleeding causes the appearance of a few dark floaters, but if it increases, it can lead to vision loss.

The new vessels can also cause scarring in the eyes, which can trigger retinal detachment. At this stage, there’s a high likelihood of losing both peripheral and central vision.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?

When diabetic retinopathy begins developing, there are no symptoms. But as it advances, these symptoms may occur:

  • Poor night vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Colors appearing as faded
  • Floaters

Protect Your Eyesight

At Joshi Retina Institute, we advise diabetic patients to have at least one annual dilated eye examination. This can catch the disease at an early stage.

Early detection of diabetic retinopathy leads to earlier treatment. Early treatment is necessary because it is the only way to salvage any remaining vision.

Concerned about diabetic retinopathy? Schedule an appointment at Joshi Retina in Boynton Beach, FL now!

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