Eye Health and Diabetic Retinopathy
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
There are often no early symptoms 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.
How Is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?
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.
How Is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated?
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 decrease a person’s peripheral vision.
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.
Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Prevented?
You can help protect yourself from diabetic retinopathy by having your eyes checked at least once a year by an eye care specialist. 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.