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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is vision-threatening damage to the retina of the eye caused by diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, many cases can be prevented with regular eye exams and appropriate treatment.

It is estimated that 90% of diabetics may experience some form of diabetic retinopathy over the course of their life. However, only a small percentage of those developing diabetic retinopathy have serious vision problems and even a smaller percentage become blind.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy:

  • Fluctuating vision
  • Eye floaters and spots
  • Development of a scotoma or shadow in your field of view
  • Blurry and/or distorted vision
  • Corneal abnormalities such as slow healing of wounds due to corneal abrasions
  • Double vision
  • Eye pain
  • Near vision problems unrelated to presbyopia
  • Cataracts

Treatment of diabetic retinopathy depends on the location of the disease and the degree of damage to the retina. If retinopathy occurs in the peripheral retina, careful monitoring of the disease may be all that is necessary. When retinopathy affects the macula and central vision, laser treatment is usually necessary.

In cases of background diabetic retinopathy, lasers may be used to seal blood vessels that have leaked serum. Laser treatment may not halt the disease entirely but can reduce further visual loss by delaying the onset of proliferative retinopathy. The proliferative stage of the disease is also treated with lasers to curtail the growth of new abnormal blood vessels.