Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of vision loss for people around the world. According to the World Health Organization, 3.9 million people struggle with vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy, making it the fifth most common cause of vision loss.
Other causes of vision loss include refractive errors, cataracts, glaucoma, and corneal opacities.
Unlike the other causes of vision loss on this list, diabetic retinopathy only affects individuals with diabetes. If you or a loved one has diabetes, what can you do to prevent this complication? That’s the topic our team here at Maryland Eye Care Center focuses on today.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that affects people with Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes.
High blood sugar can damage the small blood vessels in your eye. Because your retina needs proper blood flow to stay healthy, your eye tries to make new blood vessels. If these don’t develop properly, the abnormal blood vessels leak blood and other fluid into your retina.
You might not notice any symptoms affecting your retina in the early stages. Late symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
Vision loss doesn’t necessarily mean complete blindness. Depending on how severely your vision is damaged, your vision loss is described as mild, moderate, or severe. The final classification of visual impairment is blindness.
According to the American Foundation for the Blind, legal blindness is defined as visual acuity 20/200 or worse.
You can reduce your risk of vision loss by treating diabetic retinopathy as soon as possible.
Diabetic retinopathy develops in stages — mild, moderate, severe, and proliferative — and the longer it goes untreated, the more you risk losing your vision.
This is why it’s important to schedule routine ophthalmological appointments. During a dilated exam, we can detect diabetic retinopathy by checking for the development of abnormal blood vessels in your eyes or signs of damaged vessels.
If we do spot the signs of retinopathy, we can get started with treatment. The right treatment depends on the severity of damage and the stage of diabetic retinopathy you have.
Potential treatments include:
Treating diabetic retinopathy can help prevent vision loss by stopping the abnormal blood vessels from leaking into your retina.
You can further reduce your risk of complications from diabetic retinopathy by managing your blood sugar, scheduling regular eye exams, attending your prenatal appointments (if you’re dealing with gestational diabetes), and avoiding smoking.
Smoking can exacerbate both diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.
During your diabetic eye exam, we look for signs of diabetic retinopathy, but we also monitor for other conditions, such as diabetic macular edema and glaucoma.
Call or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment at one of our Maryland Eye Care Center locations in Silver Spring and Hyattsville, Maryland.