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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetic Retinopathy

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

There are often no early signs of diabetic retinopathy and sight may not be affected until the condition is severe. Sometimes loss of central vision when reading or driving, loss of the ability to see color, and blurriness of vision are the only signs of diabetic retinopathy. Small spots or floaters may also indicate blood vessel leaks and may clear up in days, weeks, or even months. But, because bleeding often occurs more than once, it is important to have an eye exam each year, and immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Diagnosing Diabetic Retinopathy

An eye doctor can detect diabetic retinopathy after conducting a thorough eye exam. The exam will likely include pupil dilation so that the doctor can look for any changes in blood vessels, new blood vessel growth, swelling of the retina, and retinal detachment.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

In most cases, laser surgery can prevent significant vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy.

A procedure called laser photocoagulation can be performed to seal or destroy growing or leaking blood vessels in the retina. Although the procedure is not painful, laser surgery may lower a person's night vision and ability to see color.

In some people with diabetic retinopathy, the blood that leaks from blood vessels in the retina may also leak into the vitreous humor, clouding vision. A surgical procedure called a vitrectomy can be used to remove the blood that has leaked into this part of the eye.

If diagnosed in time, almost 90% of people with late-stage diabetic retinopathy can be saved from blindness.

Preventing Diabetic Retinopathy

You can help protect yourself from diabetic retinopathy by having your eyes checked at least once a year by an ophthalmologist. Women who have diabetes and become pregnant should have a comprehensive eye exam during the first trimester, and close follow-up with an eye doctor during pregnancy (this recommendation does not apply to women who develop gestational diabetes).

You can also help slow down the development of diabetic retinopathy by keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure in check.

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