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Don't Lose Sight of Diabetic Eye Disease

Information for People with Diabetes 1. What Is Diabetic Eye Disease?

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of this disease. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness.

Diabetic eye disease may include:

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Cataract and glaucoma also affect many people who do not have diabetes.

2. What Is the Most Common Diabetic Eye Disease?

Diabetic retinopathy. This disease is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or blindness.

3. Who Is Most Likely to Get Diabetic Retinopathy?

Anyone with diabetes. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy. Nearly half of all people with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime.

4. What Are Its Symptoms?

Often there are none in the early stages of the disease. Vision may not change until the disease becomes severe. Nor is there any pain.

Blurred vision may occur when the macula -- the part of the retina that provides sharp, central vision -- swells from the leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema. If new vessels have grown on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye, blocking vision. But, even in more advanced cases, the disease may progress a long way without symptoms. That is why regular eye examinations for people with diabetes are so important.

5. How Is It Detected?

If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes examined at least once a year.

Your eyes should be dilated during the exam. That means eyedrops are used to enlarge your pupils. This allows the eye care professional to see more of the inside of your eyes to check for signs of the disease.

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