Since November is Diabetic Eye Health Awareness Month, we are looking at one of the most common eye issues that affect people with diabetes.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
As a diabetic, high blood sugar levels may cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. Blood vessels can swell and then leak or they can close up, stopping blood flow. And sometimes abnormal new blood vessels can grow on the retina. Any or all of these changes can steal your vision.
Stages of Diabetic Eye Disease
There are two main stages of diabetic eye disease, They are NPDR (non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy) and PDR (proliferative diabetic retinopathy).
With NPDR, tiny blood vessels leak, making the retina swell. When the macula swells, it is called macular edema. This is the most common reason why people with diabetes lose their vision. Also with NPDR, blood vessels in the retina can close off. This is called macular ischemia. When that happens, blood cannot reach the macula. Sometimes tiny particles called exudates can form in the retina. These can affect your vision too. If you have NPDR, your vision will be blurry.
PDR is the more advanced stage of diabetic eye disease. It happens when the retina starts growing new blood vessels. This is called neovascularization. These fragile new vessels often bleed into the vitreous. If they only bleed a little, you might see a few dark floaters. If they bleed a lot, it might block all vision. These new blood vessels can form scar tissue. Scar tissue can cause problems with the macula or lead to a detached retina. PDR is very serious, and can steal both your central and peripheral (side) vision.
Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms
You can have diabetic retinopathy and not know it. This is because it often has no symptoms in its early stages. As diabetic retinopathy gets worse, you will notice symptoms such as:
- seeing an increasing number of floaters,
- having blurry vision,
- having vision that changes sometimes from blurry to clear,
- seeing blank or dark areas in your field of vision,
- having poor night vision, and
- noticing colors appear faded or washed out
- losing vision.
Diabetic retinopathy symptoms usually affect both eyes.
As always, schedule regular annual eye exams and be sure to call your doctor if your vision changes or you experience pain.
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Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay