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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious eye condition caused by damage to the blood vessels
of the retina due to diabetes. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the

eye, crucial for vision. Over time, persistently high blood sugar levels associated with
diabetes can weaken and damage the tiny blood vessels nourishing the retina, causing
the vessels to leak blood, fluid, or to close all together – this leads to diabetic

There are two main types of diabetic retinopathy:

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR): In the early stages, NPDR may not
show noticeable symptoms. The blood vessels in the retina weaken and may leak
fluid or small amounts of blood into the retina.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR): As the disease progresses, more severe
changes occur. New, abnormal blood vessels start growing on the surface of the
retina or into the vitreous gel, a condition called neovascularization. These fragile
blood vessels are prone to bleeding/leaking and may cause scar tissue
formation, leading to retinal detachment or glaucoma. PDR poses a significant
risk of severe vision loss or even blindness if left untreated.

Leaking fluid from damaged blood vessels can cause macular edema. This is
swelling of the area of central vision. This can lead to blurry or distorted vision,
and left untreated can cause permanent vision reduction. Macular edema is not
considered in the grading of diabetic retinopathy and can happen with or without
other changes in the retina.

The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can vary depending on the stage of the condition.
Some common signs include:

● Blurred or fluctuating vision
● Difficulty seeing in low light conditions
● Floaters or spots in the field of vision
● Sudden loss of vision

Regular eye examinations are crucial for individuals with diabetes, as early stages of
diabetic retinopathy may not present noticeable symptoms. An eye doctor can detect
signs of retinopathy through a comprehensive eye exam, including dilating the pupils to
examine the retina and optic nerve.

Management and treatment of diabetic retinopathy aim to slow its progression and
prevent vision loss. Controlling blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol can
significantly reduce the risk and severity of diabetic retinopathy. Treatments may
include laser therapy to seal leaking blood vessels, injections of medications into the
eye to reduce swelling or prevent abnormal blood vessel growth, or, in more advanced
cases, vitrectomy surgery to remove blood and scar tissue from the eye.

Early detection, regular eye exams, and proactive management of diabetes are key to
preventing and managing diabetic retinopathy, helping to preserve vision and reduce the
risk of severe complications.