Retina Conditions Explained: Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects eyes. It is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina).
At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. Eventually, it can cause blindness.
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.
Treatment depends largely on the type of diabetic retinopathy you have and how severe it is and is geared to slowing or stopping progression of the condition. Treatment can include the following:
- Laser treatment that can stop or slow the leakage of blood and fluid in the eye, or it could shrink the abnormal blood vessels
- Surgery, called a vitrectomy, that would remove blood from the middle of the eye (the vitreous) or remove tissue that is tugging on the retina.
- Injections into the eye with a medication called anti-VEGF therapy that helps to stop growth of new blood vessels by blocking the effects of growth signals the body sends to generate new blood vessels
Your doctor may recommend any of the treatments alone or in combination with one another, depending on your condition.
Surgery and treatment often slows or stops the progression of diabetic retinopathy, but it's not a cure. Because diabetes is a lifelong condition, future retinal damage and vision loss are still possible.
Even after treatment for diabetic retinopathy, you'll need regular eye exams. At some point, additional treatment may be recommended.