Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It consists of damage to the blood vessels in the retina and can cause vision impairment or blindness.

illustration of norma retina vs diabetic retina

Risk Factors

All people with diabetes are at risk, including Type I (juvenile onset) and Type II diabetes. During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may also be a problem for women with diabetes. All pregnant women with diabetes should have dilated eye examinations each trimester to protect their vision.

About 50 percent of people with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime.

Prevalence

About 50 percent of people with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher the risk to develop diabetic retinopathy.

Vitreous floaters are sometimes seen as threadlike strands in the patient’s visual field. Typically these lines/spots float or drift as the eye moves

Symptoms

Floaters can be a sign of diabetic retinopathy. Sometimes difficulty reading or doing close work can indicate that fluid is collecting in the macula, the most light-sensitive part of the retina.

Treatment

Two treatment options are available; both of which are very effective but do not cure diabetic retinopathy: Laser surgery is performed in a doctor’s office or eye clinic. Before the surgery, your ophthalmologist will dilate your pupil and apply drops to numb the eye. In some cases, the doctor also may numb the area behind the eye to prevent any discomfort. A vitrectomy will be performed whenever laser surgery is deemed inefficient, usually if you have a lot of blood in the vitreous. A vitrectomy involves removing the cloudy vitreous and replacing it with a salt solution. Because the vitreous is mostly composed of water, you won’t notice the difference between the salt solution and the normal vitreous.

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