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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetic Retinopathy - What Increases Your Risk

Your risk for diabetic retinopathy depends largely on two things: how long you have had diabetes and whether or not you have kept good control of your blood sugar.

You can control some risk factors, which are things that may increase your risk for diabetic retinopathy and its complications. Risk factors that you can control include:

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  • Pregnancy. Women who have diabetes are at increased risk of developing retinopathy during pregnancy. In women who already have retinopathy when they become pregnant, the condition can become much worse during pregnancy. If you get pregnant, you will need to have an eye exam sometime during the first 3 months. You'll also need close follow-up during your pregnancy and for 1 year after you have your baby.1
  • Consistently high blood sugar. High blood sugar levels increase your risk of retinopathy. Keeping your blood sugar levels in a target range can reduce your risk for diabetic retinopathy and can slow the progression of the disease if it has already started.
  • High blood pressure. In general, people with diabetes who also have high blood pressure are more likely to develop complications that affect the blood vessels in the body, including those in the eyes.
  • Delayed diagnosis and treatment. Getting a dilated eye exam will not prevent retinopathy. But it may reduce your risk of severe vision loss from complications of retinopathy. By detecting it early, you can get treatment that can prevent vision loss and delay the progression of the disease.
  • Smoking. Although smoking has not been proved to increase the risk of retinopathy, smoking may make many of the other health problems faced by people with diabetes worse, including disease of the small blood vessels.

If you have type 2 diabetes and use the medicine rosiglitazone (Avandia, Avandamet, Avandaryl) to treat your diabetes, you may have a higher risk for problems with the center of the retina (the macula). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the makers of the drug have warned that taking this medicine could cause swelling in the macula, which is called macular edema.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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