Diabetic retinopathy is a complication caused by diabetes that is caused by damaged blood vessels in the back retina. The retina is the light-sensitive portion of the back of your eye. If diabetic retinopathy worsens, you may experience blurred vision or even vision loss.
In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy may have mild symptoms, no symptoms at all. It also can develop in anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. With regular screenings, any damage can be found early on and your vision can be preserved.
If you are in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you may not experience any symptoms. However, as the condition progresses, symptoms may include:
- Spots or dark strings appearing in your vision (floaters)
- Blurred vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Impaired color vision
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
- Vision loss
Usually this symptoms will be present in both eyes.
Over time, the build-up of excess sugar can cause blockage to the tiny blood vessels of the retina, preventing fresh blood and nourishment for it. As a result, your eye will try and grow new blood vessels to feed the eye. These new blood vessels are not as strong or as effective as the original blood vessels and are prone to leaks and ruptures. This can negatively impact your vision.
Anyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Risk factors that increase the likelihood of this condition include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- How long you have had diabetes – the longer you have diabetes, the greater your risk
- Poor blood sugar level management
- Tobacoo use
- Being African-America, Hispanic, or Native American
Prevention of Diabetic Retinopathy
You can’t always prevent this condition. However, with regular eye exams at Diabetes Center of Wellness, good control of your blood sugar and blood pressure, and early intervention for retinal problems can help prevent severe vision loss. The key is detecting it early.
If you have diabetes, take these steps to help lower your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
- Properly manage your diabetes. Make healthy and physical activity the norm, and follow your doctors recommend treatment instructions.
- Consistently monitor your blood sugar levels. Work with your doctor to determine how frequently you need to test your blood sugar. During times of stress or sickness, you may need to test your blood sugar more often.
- Pay attention to vision changes. As stated previously, you may not experience symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. If anything changes with your vision – such as blurry, spotty, or hazy vision develops – notify your doctor immediately. This could be the signs of this condition progressively getting worse.
- Schedule regular vision tests with Diabetes Center of Wellness, or your diabetes care provider. It is of the upmost importance that you have vision tests done by your diabetes care provider, even if you see an eye doctor regularly.
Diabetes is not an automatic sentence for vision loss, but it does put you at risk. Protect your eyes and your vision by taking an active role in your diabetes management.