What is diabetic retinopathy?

Dr. Jeffrey S. Heier, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

With cases of diabetes rising precipitously, the eye problem known as diabetic retinopathy -- which can cause vision loss and blindness -- is becoming a serious public health issue.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when abnormal blood sugar levels damage small blood vessels in the retina (the innermost layer of the eye). Damage to the retina can lead to vision problems, including permanent vision loss. As diabetic retinopathy progresses, you may notice spots and floaters in your vision. Central vision may become distorted.

Retinopathy is a diabetic eye disease that results in damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye. Loss of vision may result. A dilated eye exam in which the pupil (the black center) of the eye is temporarily enlarged with eyedrops allows an eye care specialist to see the inside of the eye more easily. There are two types of retinopathy:

  • nonproliferative retinopathy: damage to the retina marked by bleeding, fluid buildup, and abnormal dilation of the blood vessels. It is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy.
  • proliferative retinopathy: a condition in which fragile new blood vessels grow along the retina and in the clear gel that lies behind the eye's lens and in front of the retina.

If you have diabetes, you've probably heard of this. High blood sugar can weaken and damage the blood vessels of the retina, causing bleeding and other changes that can affect vision. In some cases, these changes can even lead to blindness over time. But regular screening offers the chance of early detection and treatments that will slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

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Dr. Manvi P. Maker
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. It can be vision-threatening and is caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the retina (a layer that lines the inside of the back of the eye).

There are different stages of retinopathy which can be identified by a full dilated eye exam.  Some of these changes include leakage of blood or fluid in the retina.  These chnages may require prompt treatment to prevent futher vision loss.  Therefore, it is very important to maintain at least yearly dilated eye exams with your eye doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.