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.
About two years ago, when Anne Tierney learned she had type 2 diabetes, it
galvanized her. “My diagnosis came as a shock,” says Tierney, who was then
about 40 pounds overweight. “I used to eat chocolate all the time. The day I
was diagnosed, I quit.” She also consulted a nutritionist and hired a personal
trainer. “I knew I had to take action,” recalls Tierney, 51, director of
corporate gifts for Halls Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Her action plan was in keeping with the latest research on...
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
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