Diabetic Retinopathy and Retinal Vascular Diseases

Diabetic retinopathy and retinal vascular diseases

  • 23.6 million people in the United States (8% of the population) have diabetes
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness for people between 20 and 65 years of age

Almost all people with diabetes develop some degree of retinopathy. In fact, statistics show that after several years, 50% of people with diabetes develop retinopathy, and after 17 years with diabetes, a whopping 90% develop diabetic retinopathy.

If you have diabetes, you are at high risk for losing some or all of your vision…and this can occur without warning signs. Sadly, most people with diabetes are not well informed about diabetic retinopathy, and by the time symptoms appear, severe damage may have already occurred.

What is diabetic retinopathy and what are the signs?

Diabetes damages the seeing film of the eye called the retina. Over time, diabetes damages the blood vessels of the retina in the back of the eye, resulting in vision loss. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to irreversible, total blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy can occur in both insulin-dependent and noninsulin-dependent individuals. Retinal damage appears to be related to the duration of time with diabetes. Although many patients experience no early warning signs, some of the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Blurry vision that worsens
  • Sudden onset of new floaters
  • Eye pain

Remember, the only way to detect diabetic retinopathy is to undergo annual eye exams, including pupil dilation and examination of the back of the eye. If you are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, the good news is that there are exciting sight-saving treatments available, including laser surgery and vitrectomy.