What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, occurs when blood vessels in the retina change. Sometimes these vessels swell and leak fluid or even close off completely. In other cases, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.

Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. People who have diabetic retinopathy often don’t notice changes in their vision in the disease’s early stages. But as it progresses, diabetic retinopathy usually causes vision loss that in many cases cannot be reversed.

Symptoms

Blurry Vision, Floaters, and Vision Loss.

The only way to detect diabetic retinopathy and to monitor its progression is through a comprehensive eye exam. Diabetic retinopathy usually takes years to develop, which is why it is important to have regular eye exams. Because people with Type 2 diabetes may have been living with the disease for some time before they are diagnosed, it is important that they see an ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) without delay.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following diabetic eye screening schedule for people with diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes: Within five years of being diagnosed and then yearly.
Type 2 Diabetes: At the time of diabetes diagnosis and then yearly.
During pregnancy: Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment with their ophthalmologist in the first trimester because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy.

Avoiding tobacco use and correction of associated hypertension are important therapeutic measures in the management of diabetic retinopathy.
The best way of preventing the onset and delaying the progression of diabetic retinopathy is to monitor it vigilantly and achieve optimal glycemic control.