The retina is the area at the back of your eye that receives light. Impulses are then transmitted by the optic nerve to the brain. In order to do its job the retina utilizes a system of small blood vessels.
Diabetic retinopathy is progressive damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Source: Mayo Clinic.
“Your chances of developing retinopathy increases the longer you have diabetes. If you have had diabetes for 10 years, you have a 50 percent chance of having retinopathy; if you have had diabetes for 20 years you are almost certain to have background retinopathy….it may just mean that there are early signs of damage to your retinal blood vessels.”
Source: Diabetes: A Practical Guide to Managing Your Health by Rosemary Walker & Jill Rodgers
The good news is that according to the American Diabetes Association, while diabetics are at greater risk for retinopathy, “most people who have diabetes have nothing more than minor eye disorders. ”
Types of Retinopathy:
Nonproliferative: per Merck Manual: produces increased capillary permeability, microaneurysms, hemorrhages, exudates, and macular edema and causes vision loss if untreated.
Proliferative:per Merck Manual: is characterized by abnormal new vessel formation, which occurs on the vitreous surface of the retina and may extend into the vitreous cavity and cause vitreous hemorrhages. Vision loss with proliferative retinopathy may be severe.
Some Complications of Retinopathy:
Glaucoma: is a group of conditions resulting in optic nerve damage. High pressure inside your eye is usually what causes this damage.
Cataracts:Is a clouding of the lens. It is a slowly progressive disease.
Retinal Detachment: This is considered a medical emergency and occurs when the retina detaches from the blood vessels that support the retina itself.
Vitreous Hemorrhage: per Mayo Clinic: The new blood vessels may bleed into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye. If the amount of bleeding is small, you might see only a few dark spots or floaters. In more severe cases, blood can fill the vitreous cavity and completely block your vision. Vitreous hemorrhage by itself usually doesn’t cause permanent vision loss. The blood often clears from the eye within a few weeks or months.
Macular Edema: Caused when amaged blood vessels leak fluid and lipids onto the macula
Diabetic Eyes . com: The website of Dr. A. Paul Chous; eye doctor, diabetes educator, and author of the highly-acclaimed book Diabetic Eye Disease: Lessons From A Diabetic Eye Doctor.
Take Dr. Chous’ Eye-Q-Test.
And remember to protect your vision with controlled blood sugar levels and yearly eye exams.