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The eyes are one of the last places you might think to check once you receive a diagnosis of diabetes — but they can be one of the most significantly affected by untreated diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can cause irreversible damage and permanent vision loss. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

When the body is not able to appropriately use and store sugar, as is the case in diabetes, a person’s blood sugar levels are likely to increase. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the increase causes the blood vessels in the retina to leak blood and fluids and the retinal tissue to swell.

Diabetic retinopathy affects as many as 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with diabetes at some point in their lives, and is the leading cause of global vision loss.

While the damage can be permanent, the good news is that the condition can be prevented. 

What are the Most Common Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy?

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, yearly eye exams are a must, as diabetic retinopathy can still affect people who have their diabetes under control.

The first signs will often be cloudy or blurry vision, caused by swelling of the retinal tissue. However, these symptoms are not always present. Keep in mind that any shifts in blood sugar will cause a shift in your vision. If you notice any fluctuations in your vision, schedule a dilated eye exam.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Seeing floaters or spots
  • Double vision
  • Blurred and distorted vision
  • Eye pain
  • Inability to focus your vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night

How is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of damage to the eye, or the stage of the disease. While the disease is irreversible, further damage can be slowed or stopped. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with an early stage of diabetic retinopathy, your only treatment may be regular monitoring. The more you control your blood sugar, the better you can control the progression of the disease.

Later stages often require laser treatment. Creating a pattern of small burns across the retina will both seal the leaks and will shrink abnormal blood vessels.

What Can I Do Today to Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy?

A few small steps can make a big difference. 

  • Take your prescribed medicine as directed by your physician 
  • Follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Schedule an eye exam
  • Follow up with your doctor(s) as directed
  • Maintain good blood sugar levels and have your A1C checked regularly

The experienced doctors at SIEHT can help diagnose and treat your diabetic retinopathy. Schedule an appointment today and set yourself up for a future of good vision.