a person jogging to show what is diabetic retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication that can arise in individuals who have type 1 or 2 diabetes. The disease and can damage the retina causing mild to severe vision problems, or in some cases, blindness. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent diabetic retinopathy, and, if you do have it, early intervention and proper management of the condition can prevent severe vision loss.

What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition where the body is unable to produce enough insulin and properly break down sugar (glucose) in the blood. High levels of glucose in the blood can block the fragile, tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye that nourish the retina.

The eye compensates for these blockages by trying to grow new blood vessels, but these are often weak, and can leak fluid and blood into the retina. Damaged vessels, fluid buildup, pressure within the eye and scar tissue can cause vision loss over time.

Diabetics, as a group, have a 25X greater risk of vision loss than those without the disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?

In the early stages of Diabetic Retinopathy, you may have no symptoms at all, which is why it is especially important that you have regular yearly eye exams with dilation if you have diabetes. As the condition worsens, you may experience:

  • Spots, flashes or floaters in your vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Vision problems that come and go
  • Dark or empty patches in your field of vision
  • Vision loss

Contact your eye doctor right away if your vision changes suddenly or becomes blurry, spotty or hazy.

What Are the Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy?

The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication. Additional risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy
  • Tobacco use
  • Being Black, Hispanic, or Native American

How to Lower Your Risk for Diabetic Retinopathy

While it may not be possible to prevent diabetic retinopathy, certain factors can help you reduce your risk or prevent the condition from worsening. These include:

  • Managing your diabetes by taking insulin or other medications as directed, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
  • Monitor your blood sugar by testing several times a day (or as often as your doctor recommends).
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
  • Quit smoking or using tobacco.
  • Pay attention to any changes in your vision.

If you are a diabetic and are concerned about diabetic retinopathy, Tyson Eye is here to help. We are committed to excellence by delivering modern technology with old fashioned concern. Call us at 239-542-2020 or request an appointment today!