What Are The Warning Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy?

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EyeQue Team

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April 3, 2019

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common type of diabetic eye disease. When someone has this condition, this means their high blood sugar levels have caused damage to the blood vessels in the retina (the lining in the back of your eye which translates light into images for your brain). If this disease is left untreated for too long, it can cause blindness.

What happens if you have diabetic retinopathy?

According to the National Eye Institute, there are four key stages:

  1. Mild nonproliferative retinopathy — Retinal blood vessels swell up and can leak fluid into the retina.
  2. Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy — Blood vessels continue swelling and may be unable to transport blood.
  3. Severe nonproliferative retinopathy — Blocked blood vessels signal the retina to grow new blood vessels.
  4. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy — New blood vessels grow inside the retina and into the vitreous gel (the liquid inside the eye). They often leak, bleed, and create scar tissue which can lead the retina to detach from the eye and cause complete vision loss.

What are the warning signs of diabetic retinopathy?

Initially, you may not experience any symptoms. As diabetic retinopathy progresses, you will likely see spots which look like floating pieces of cotton. If these spots clear up on their own, this does not indicate that the disease has passed—the retinal blood vessels often begin to bleed again and can cause permanent blindness.

Anyone experiencing Type I, Type II, or gestational diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. Your eye doctor can conduct a comprehensive dilated eye exam to test for diabetic retinopathy.

How can you protect your vision if you have diabetes?

The National Eye Institute recommends individuals with diabetes schedule an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam with their ophthalmologist. Women with diabetes should immediately schedule this exam if they become pregnant. You should also do your best to keep your blood glucose level, blood pressure, and cholesterol as close to normal as possible to help prevent diabetic retinopathy from developing.


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