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Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy

More than two in every five people in the United States with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy. This eye condition can lead to severe vision loss and even blindness if diabetes isn’t managed or the retinopathy goes untreated.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye are damaged. At first, diabetic retinopathy has no clear symptoms or only mild vision changes that may not send you to the doctor. This is why it’s so critical for you to regularly visit an eye specialist, like those at Valley Eye Professionals, if you have diabetes.

Take a moment to learn more about diabetic retinopathy and to understand what you can do to prevent it or deter its progression.

About the retina

Your retina is critical to your vision. This thin layer of tissue covers about 65% of the back of your eye. It sits near the optic nerve and has the job of receiving light from the lens. Your retina converts the light to neural signals and transmits them to your brain — so you can see.

About diabetic retinopathy

When your blood sugar is too high for too long, it can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina.

Diabetic retinopathy starts in the nonproliferative stage. During this stage, small blood vessels in your retina develop swollen areas. These aneurysms block blood supply to the retina and cause inflammation and swelling.

When enough blood vessels become blocked, they can start to leak and cause swelling in a part of the retina known as the macula.

As retinopathy worsens, you enter the proliferative stage. Your body starts to grow new blood vessels. These new vessels are weak and fragile, making them prone to leak blood and fluids.

Complications possible with diabetic retinopathy

As the disease progresses, the fluids build up and swelling in the macula worsens. You start to lose central vision. The swelling of your macula is called diabetic macular edema. About half of all people with diabetic retinopathy develop this complication and the associated vision changes and loss.

Diabetic retinopathy may also lead to a type of glaucoma called neovascular glaucoma. This occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow out of the retina and block fluid from draining out of the eye.

In severe cases, fluid buildup can get so bad that the retina detaches entirely. Scars may also form at the back of your eye due to diabetic retinopathy that can lead to detachment of the retina.

Early detection and good care

Early detection of diabetic retinopathy can help prevent serious complications and vision loss. If you have diabetes, we strongly recommend that you get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once each year. You may not have symptoms, but your optometrist can detect changes in your retina early so you can protect your vision.

Continue to manage your diabetes well with a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and medications. Controlling your blood sugar levels goes a long way in preventing or at least delaying vision loss.

If you have diabetes, trust the team at Valley Eye Professionals to offer you the support and screenings necessary to keep your eyes healthy. Call our office in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles to schedule your appointment, or book online today.

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