Facebook Pixel

Early Care Can Protect the Eyes from Diabetic Retinopathy

By HERWriter
Rate This

People with diabetes are not able to use or store sugar correctly. As a result, sugar can build up in the blood and cause damage throughout the body, including the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
The light-sensitive lining inside the back of the eye is called the retina. This is the part of the eye that changes images into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. Tiny blood vessels carry oxygen and nutrients to the retina to keep it healthy and to promote good vision. In people with diabetes, excess sugar in the blood can damage these blood vessels and stop the retina from getting the nutrients it needs. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy.

The longer a person has diabetes -- either type 1 or type 2–the better the chances this kind of eye damage will occur. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy:

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR):
This is the first stage of the disease. Blood vessels in the eyes become larger in some places, called microaneurysms. Blood vessels may also become blocked, and small amounts of blood and other fluids may leak into the retina. Eventually, this fluid in the retina can lead to noticeable vision problems.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR):
This is the more advanced form of the disease. As blood vessels in the eye are blocked, the retina does not receive enough oxygen. This causes fragile new blood vessels to grow in the retina and the vitreous, which is the gel-like fluid inside the eye. Because these vessels are so fragile, they can leak blood into the vitreous, which clouds the vision. Other possible complications from PDR include a detached retina and glaucoma which causes damage to the optic nerve.

Risk factors for Diabetic Retinopathy
Everyone who has diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Approximately 40 percent of Americans who have diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy.

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

First of all, congratulations on a well written article!

As a retina specialist, an ophthalmologist who treats retinal disease, I take care of patients with diabetic retinopathy. I think your summary is terrific.

I would like to underscore two of your points;

1. The biggest risk factor leading to the development of the disease is the length of time you have been diabetic. Early examination, before any vision changes occur, is key to long term vision preservation.

2. There are emerging treatments that have started to replace the age-old laser treatment. Intraocular injections of steroids and so-called anti-VEGF medications are slowly becoming first-line treatment.

Overall, the potential for serious vision loss is less than 1%.

If you remember that every diabetic gets the eye disease, make sure to get examined at least once per year - perfect vision or not!

Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Fairfax, Virginia

January 13, 2010 - 2:09pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Get Email Updates

Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!