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.
Even before you notice symptoms, high blood sugar can damage parts of your body. That's why certain diabetes tests to check blood sugar control and to catch problems early are so crucial.
But many patients aren't getting key diabetes tests at least annually, such as the hemoglobin A1c test, a dilated eye exam, and a foot exam.
"If you look at the nationwide data, it's sobering," says Enrico Cagliero, MD, a diabetes researcher and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "A lot...
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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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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