Protect Your Vision from Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that can cause blindness. It is a common side effect of diabetes that results when excess sugar in the blood causes damage to the small blood vessels in the eyes.  All people who have diabetes are at risk for this condition.  Women who are pregnant are at even higher risk.

Diabetic retinopathy is a progressive condition that gets worse over time.  The longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk of developing the disease becomes.  Most people have no symptoms early in the condition.  The only way to tell if you have it is to have your eyes examined.  So if you have diabetes, don’t assume your eyes are healthy just because you don’t have symptoms.  Be sure to have a comprehensive eye exam including dilation at least once a year.

During the eye exam, your eye doctor will test your vision and measure the pressure of the fluid inside your eyes.  He will also study the inside of your eye to look for bulging blood vessels or other signs of the disease.  This is done by using eye drops to dilate or widen the pupils of your eyes.  The doctor will use a special magnifying lens to look through your pupil at the retina which is located on the inside of the back of your eyes.

Treatment for diabetic retinopathy starts with controlling your blood sugar levels.  Keeping sugar under control reduces the risk that the blood vessels in the eyes will become damaged.   Also make sure your cholesterol and blood pressure are in the healthy range, and stop smoking to lower your risks.

As diabetic neuropathy develops, fragile new blood vessels may grow inside the eye.  These vessels may leak blood into the clear vitreous fluid inside the eye which can make your vision blurry. If this happens, your eye doctor may recommend laser surgery to shrink the extra blood vessels and stop them from leaking.   If the gel-like vitreous fluid is extremely clouded, your eye doctor may do surgery to remove the fluid and replace it with a salt solution.  This can help reduce blurring and restore sight.

Early treatment is important to preserve as much clear vision as possible.  Although treatments can stop the progression of the disease, it is not usually possible to reverse the damage that has already been done to the eyes.    If you are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, you will need more frequent eye exams to monitor the condition. You will also need to maintain tight control of your blood sugar to help protect your vision and slow the progression of the disease.

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer from


National Eye Institute. Facts About Diabetic Retinopathy. Web. April 30, 2012.

Medline Plus. Diabetes and eye disease. Web. April 30, 2012.

American Optometric Association. Diabetic Retinopathy. Web. April 30, 2012.

Related Links:

Diabetic Retinopathy: Diagnosis and Treatment

New Hope For Diabetic Retinopathy Patients

Do You Have Pre-Diabetes?

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