Diabetic Retinopathy – Freedom Scientific
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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes in which retinal blood vessels leak into the retina, causing macular edema (swelling). It is often caused by elevated blood sugar levels. Diabetic retinopathy causes over 8,000 cases of new blindness annually and is the primary cause of blindness for adults in the U.S.

What is diabetic retinopathy? Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that affects people with diabetes, in which elevated blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye. Without the proper nutrients supplied by the blood, the retina cannot stay healthy. When blood vessels leak or break, it distorts the vision. Scarring can develop, and in some cases, a detached retina can occur. These all lead to worsening vision and sometimes blindness.
Anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, although those with uncontrolled blood sugar levels are at higher risk. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy often begin with blurring of the vision that generally worsens over time. As it develops, people can experience cloudy vision, loss of color vision, shadows or blind spots, or floaters. People with diabetic retinopathy often have trouble seeing at night. Careful control of diabetes and regular eye exams can delay the development of the disorder. Diabetic retinopathy often develops without pain and with minimal symptoms at first. Because it can be treated after an early diagnosis, it is critical to have an annual eye exam and to report any change in vision.

What can be done if diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed? The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to control the blood sugar levels. If the blood vessels in the back of the eye are leaking, laser surgery can often seal off the leaks that lead to macular edema. If the condition has progressed to the point that the blood vessels are leaking into the vitreous humor, a vitrectomy can be performed.

What devices can help? Many people who have lost some vision can use video magnifiers and screen magnification programs to retain independence. For those who have lost most or all their sight, screen reading software is recommended. Because many people with diabetes also experience lessened sensitivity in their fingers, they do not usually use Braille.