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Diabetic Retinopathy

LEARNING MORE ABOUT DIABETIC RETINOPATHY

Diabetes is a dangerous and potentially life threatening disease. What some may not realize is that it can lead to vision loss by a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Anyone with any kind of diabetes can get diabetic retinopathy. Your risk increases the longer you have diabetes. More than 2 in 5 Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. The good news is that you can lower your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by controlling your diabetes. Managing diabetic retinopathy early is vital to help prevent serious progression which can lead to severe vision loss and even blindness.  
 

What is a Diabetic Retinopathy? 

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication that affects eyes. It's caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). 
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The condition can develop in anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication. 

What are the symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy? 

In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. As the condition progresses, diabetic retinopathy symptoms may include: 

  • Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters) 

  • Blurred vision 

  • Fluctuating vision 

  • Impaired color vision 

  • Dark or empty areas in your vision 

  • Vision loss 

Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. 
 

 How is Diabetic Retinopathy diagnosed? 

Diabetic retinopathy is best diagnosed with a comprehensive dilated eye exam. For this exam, drops placed in your eyes widen (dilate) your pupils to allow your doctor to better view inside your eyes. The drops may cause your near vision to blur until they wear off, several hours later. 
 

How can I manage Diabetic Retinopathy? 

  • Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, each week. Take oral diabetes medications or insulin as directed. 

  • Monitor your blood sugar level. You may need to check and record your blood sugar level several times a day — more-frequent measurements may be required if you're ill or under stress.  

  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and losing excess weight can help. Sometimes medication is needed, too. 

  • Quit smoking or use other types of tobacco, smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications, including diabetic retinopathy. 

  • Pay attention to vision changes. Contact your eye doctor right away if you experience sudden vision changes or your vision becomes blurry, spotty or hazy. 

  • Have a dilated eye exam every year, even if you're not having symptoms. 

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