Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults. Approximately 25% of current diabetics have some form of the disease. The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases as patients age and is related to how long they have had the disease. It is estimated that 90% of diabetics may experience some form of diabetic retinopathy over the course of their life. However, only a small percentage of those developing diabetic retinopathy have serious vision problems and even a smaller percentage become blind.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes mellitus which causes abnormalities in the tiny blood vessels nourishing the retina. These vessels weaken, leak fluid and blood, and fail to provide nutrients necessary for good health in the retina. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can result in severe visual loss, including blindness.
The cause of diabetic retinopathy is not completely understood. However, it is known that diabetes weakens small blood vessels in various areas of the body, including the retina. Unfortunately, the development of diabetic retinopathy cannot be prevented.
Though vision may gradually become blurred, significant loss of sight does not usually occur with background retinopathy. Because the patient does not experience pain or external symptoms such as blood-shot eyes or discharge, changes in the retina can go unnoticed unless detected by an eye examination.
When bleeding occurs in proliferative retinopathy, the patient has clouding or complete loss of sight. Connective tissue pulling on the retina causes distortion and blurring. However, if abnormalities occur in the peripheral retina, the patient may not experience any symptoms.
A complete eye examination is the best protection against the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Remember, prevention is the best medicine!
Early detection and management of diabetic retinopathy is important to arrest or slow the development of the more sight-damaging states of the disease. Even when no symptoms are noticed, diabetic patients should have frequent eye examinations as recommended by their doctor. Non-diabetics should also have their eyes examined periodically to help detect the presence of diabetes and other diseases. With careful monitoring, treatment of diabetic retinopathy can usually be started before sight is affected.
If you have diabetes mellitus, or are experiencing vision problems, you should have a dilated eye examination at lease once a year for the rest of your life.
To read more on diabetic retinopathy: Diabetic Retinopathy
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