What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that results in damage to the back surface of the eye (the retina). In diabetic retinopathy, the small blood vessels that supply blood to the retina become damaged and leak and even rupture. This causes damage to the retina in much the same way that a leaky pipe in your home would cause damage to the walls and floor.


Is Diabetic Retinopathy serious?

Diabetic retinopathy is a very serious complication of diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness in Americans under the age of 65. A comprehensive eye examination including photos of the retina and dilation of the eyes is very effective at catching this disease in the early stages.


How often should I be seen?

The degree of retinopathy due to diabetes will determine how frequently you will need to be monitored. Early stages of diabetic retinopathy have few symptoms but can easily be detected in a thorough eye examination and is usually monitored yearly, but may require more frequent visits. Later stages of the disease can include symptoms of missing spots in your vision, poor acuity (blurry vision even with glasses), and hazy vision or color vision changes.


What can be done if I have Diabetic Retinopathy?

There are treatments for diabetic retinopathy, the most common of which is laser photocoagulation. Laser treatment involves sealing off the leaking blood vessels to stop them from bleeding, but the most effective treatment is actually good management of your blood sugar and coordination of care with your diabetic doctor (endocrinologist or family physician). Diabetes is a disease that can be managed very effectively with proper diet and exercise and is a disease where you can play a very important role in management of the disease.