What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the retina located in back of the eye caused by diabetes.
What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?
The elevated blood sugar (glucose) damages the blood vessels in the retina. It usually takes seven years or more for diabetic retinopathy to develop. It is still important to have a yearly dilated eye exam once you have been diagnosed with diabetes. The high blood glucose causes damages to cells in the cell wall of the blood vessels. This leads to a break down in the blood vessel wall which allows leaking of fluid and blood out of the blood vessels into the retina. As the blood vessel wall becomes more damaged, the blood vessel wall bulges in places which are called microaneurysms. These microaneurysms allow more leaking and damage. Eventually the damage to the blood vessels can cause a total collapse or closure leading to ischemia or lack of blood flow through the retina. This leads to a more serious form of diabetic retinopathy.
People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy.
Sign and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
In most cases there no symptoms until there is enough damage to the retina to alter its function.
Blurred vision or loss of vision is due to the bleeding or swelling in the retina.
Intermittent Blurred Vision
This type of blurred vision can occur with changes in blood glucose levels. Changes in glass prescriptions can be a symptom of diabetes. The higher the blood glucose level the more nearsighted the eye becomes. This is due to the elevated blood glucose causing the lens in the eye to swell. It is important not to get a new glass prescription until your blood glucose has been stable for three weeks.
Floaters which appear as spots, dots, cobwebs, bugs, veils, shadows, or curtains can be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy.
Double vision can occur as the diabetes damages one of the nerves that control the eye muscles that move the eye.