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Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease among people with diabetes.  It occurs when the blood vessels in the retina change.  These vessels swell and leak fluid or may close off completely.  In some cases, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.

People with diabetic retinopathy often don't notice changes in their vision in the early stages of the disease. As it progresses, diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss that in many cases can not be reversed.  It usually affects both eyes.

Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy

Blood sugar levels that are too high for an extended period of time can cause damage to the capillaries or the tiny blood vessels that supply blood to the retina. Over time, these blood vessels begin to leak fluids and fats, causing edema or swelling. Eventually, these vessels can close off which is called ischemia. These problems are signs of a non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR).

diabeticeyeTreatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is prevention.  Strict control of blood sugar levels will significantly reduce the risk of vision loss.  Treatment does not cure diabetic retinopathy, nor does it typically restore normal vision. The importance of seeking treatment early is to slow the progression of vision loss.  Lack of treatment allows the diabetic retinopathy to progress from minimal to severe stages, leading up to vision loss.

A medical eye exam is the only way to find changes inside your eye. Be sure to schedule an eye exam each year -- especially if you are diabetic.