If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you may be at risk of diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of blindness among North American adults. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that may occur in people who have diabetes. It causes progressive damage to the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye.
The disease is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina (the part of your eye that transmits visual information to your brain). In some cases, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other cases, abnormal new blood vessels may grow on the surface of your retina.
If you suffer from diabetes, you may have diabetic retinopathy and not even know it. Symptoms often go undetected at first, but they gradually worsen and result in vision loss and even blindness in one or both eyes.
Over time, diabetes damages small blood vessels throughout the body, including the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when these tiny blood vessels leak blood and other fluids. This causes the retinal tissue to swell, resulting in cloudy or blurred vision.
The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.
When people with diabetes experience long periods of high blood sugar, fluid can accumulate in the lens inside the eye that controls focusing. This changes the curvature of the lens, leading to changes in vision. However, once blood sugar levels are controlled, usually the lens will return to its original shape and vision improves.
There is currently no cure for diabetic retinopathy, but the disease can be treated and its symptoms slowed and managed if caught early.
If you have diabetes, you should schedule an eye exam every year.