You might not have any signs of diabetic retinopathy until it becomes serious. When you do have symptoms, you might notice:
- Loss of central vision, which is used when you read or drive
- Not being able to see colors
- Blurry vision
- Holes or black spots in your vision
- Floaters, or small spots in your vision caused by bleeding
If your blood glucose level (blood sugar) is too high for too long, it blocks off the small blood vessels that keep your retina healthy. Your eye will try to grow new blood vessels, but they won’t develop well. The blood vessels start to weaken. They can leak blood and fluid into your retina. This can cause another condition called macular edema. It can make your vision blurry.
If you have any form of diabetes — type 1, type 2, or gestational — you may get diabetic retinopathy. Your chance goes up the longer you have diabetes. Almost half of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. And only about half of them know they have this disease.
Other things that can raise your odds of diabetic retinopathy include:
Diabetic retinopathy tends to go through these four stages:
- Mild nonproliferative retinopathy. In the disease’s earliest stage, tiny blood vessels in your retina change. Small areas swell. These are called microaneurysms. Fluid can leak out of them and into your retina.
- Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy. As your disease gets worse, blood vessels that should keep your retina healthy swell and change shape. They can’t deliver blood to your retina. This can change the way your retina looks. These blood vessel changes can trigger diabetic macular edema (DME). That’s swelling in the area of your retina called the macula.
- Severe nonproliferative retinopathy. In the third stage, many blood vessels get blocked. They can’t deliver blood to your retina to keep it healthy. Areas of your retina where this happens make special proteins called growth factors that tell your retina to grow new blood vessels.
- Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). This is the most advanced stage. New blood vessels grow inside your retina and then into the jelly inside your eyeballs called vitreous humor. Fragile new blood vessels are more likely to leak fluid and bleed. Scar tissue starts to form. This can cause retinal detachment, when your retina pulls away from the tissue underneath. This can lead to permanent blindness.
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the extent of the disease. People with diabetic retinopathy may need laser surgery to seal leaking blood vessels or to discourage other blood vessels from leaking.
If you are diabetic, you can help prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by:
- Taking your prescribed medication.
- Sticking to your diet.
- Exercising regularly.
- Controlling high blood pressure.
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking.
- Blood sugar control (glycemic control).
- Blood Pressure Control—BP of less than 140/80 mm Hg for a patient with diabetes.
- Lipid Lowering—lowering LDL cholesterol through lifestyle modification. Lowering saturated fats and cholesterol, weight loss, increase physical activity, use of statins for reducing high cholesterol.
- Weight management—bring overweight is associated with increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
At Amrita Medical Center, our staff is happy to answer any of your questions and help you decide if the right fit for you. We even offer same day appointments for your convenience. Contact us here!