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What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that may occur in people who have  longstanding or poorly controlled diabetes where the blood vessels weaken, leak or close off in the retina.   

 

The early stage, called non-proliferative or background retinopathy, is  identified by small vessel out-pouchings (microaneurysms), and fluids or blood collecting in the retina.  It may lead to macular edema causing blurred vision and can result in a permanent loss of vision.

 

The more advanced stage, proliferative diabetic retinopathy, occurs when new blood vessels begin to form on the surface of the retina,  These abnormal vessels are weak and bleed easily, resulting in floaters or, with heavier bleeding, a significant loss of vision.  They may lead to the formation of scar tissue and retinal detachments, again putting you at great risk of permanent vision loss.  

 

You can minimize your risk of developing diabetic eye disease and other related eye diseases by keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.  Regular eye exams are an essential part of reducing your risk of vision loss.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration can be thought of as an acceleration of the aging process affecting the center of the retina, called the macula.  There are two forms:   Dry, which constitutes 85-90% of cases and usually does not cause severe vision loss.  Wet (so named because leaky new blood vessels develop), which constitutes 10-15% of cases and is the major cause of severe vision loss.

 

Symptoms include:

  • Decreased visual acuity, insidious or sudden-onset​

  • Blurred vision

  • Distorted near vision

  • Scotoma (patches of lost vision)

  • Visual distortion

  • Vague visual complaints

While macular degeneration doesn’t cause total blindness because it doesn’t affect peripheral vision, it is the number one cause of vision loss in the United States. Possible risk factors include genetics, age, diet, smoking, and sunlight exposure. Regular eye examinations are highly recommended to detect macular degeneration early and prevent permanent vision loss.