Skip to content

    Diabetes Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    A Closer Look at Diabetic Retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy is a common and potentially disabling long-term complication of diabetes. This condition arises when elevated levels of blood sugar damage the tiny blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the retina, the part of the eye that detects light. Typically, both eyes are affected.

    Retinopathy can also lead to glaucoma, increased pressure within the eye that can further threaten vision. Untreated, retinopathy can lead to progressive and irreversible vision loss. This condition is the leading cause of blindness in people between the ages of 20 and 60. But if retinopathy is diagnosed early, blindness can be prevented. Although many people with diabetes develop impaired vision, fewer than 5% suffer severe vision loss.

    Recommended Related to Diabetes

    6 Low-Carb Food Makeovers

    You watch what you eat because of your diabetes, and you know some of your favorite comfort foods can be a problem. You don't have to give them up if you know how to change them. “Many of my clients are reluctant to part with their highly processed favorites because they don’t think their cravings can be satisfied with healthy food,” says Cheryl Forberg, RD, chef and nutritionist for NBC's The Biggest Loser. “But it’s a misconception that simple, nutritious foods can’t be absolutely bursting with...

    Read the 6 Low-Carb Food Makeovers article > >

    For a person who has diabetes, the risk of developing retinopathy is directly related to the length of time that he or she has had diabetes. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to retinal damage. Although retinopathy usually does not appear for approximately five years after a type 1 diabetes diagnosis, it may already be present when type 2 diabetes is diagnosed. After 15 years of having diabetes, 98 percent of those with type 1 diabetes and 78 percent of those with type 2 have some degree of retinal damage.

    Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy is usually silent. Severe and permanent retinal damage can occur before you notice any of the following symptoms:

    • Blurred vision that does not improve with glasses
    • Vision that worsens, improves, then worsens again
    • Sudden loss of vision, particularly following events such as coughing or sneezing
    • Seeing "cobwebs," "spots," or a "hole" in your field of vision
    • Eye pain

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on September 01, 2014

    Today on WebMD

    Diabetic tools
    Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
    woman flexing muscles
    10 strength training exercises.
     
    Blood sugar test
    12 practical tips.
    Tom Hanks
    Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
     
    kenneth fujioka, md
    Video
    Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
    Article
     
    Middle aged person
    Tool
    jennie brand miller
    Video
     

    Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
    Article
    type 2 diabetes
    Slideshow
     
    food fitness planner
    Tool
    feet
    Slideshow