What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults. The number of people living with diabetes continues to increase at an alarming rate. One-third of adults over age 40 have diabetes, and more than one-third of all African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. One of the first parts of the body that can be affected by diabetes is the eyes, even before symptoms elsewhere are noticed. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

When your bloodstream contains high levels of glucose(sugar), it causes blood vessels to get narrow and clogged, especially the ones in your eyes. These conditions cause fluid to build up in your blood vessels. Over time, fluid buildup in your eyes’ blood vessels can cause serious problems to develop. These include micro aneurysms in the back of the eye, floaters, retinal detachments, and permanent vision loss. If diabetic retinopathy is not properly controlled and treated, it can also increase your risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.

Anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes should undergo a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Early detection and timely treatment can offer protection against vision loss. Optometrists perform most of the comprehensive eye examinations for individuals with diabetes. Optometrists are well-versed in the management and treatment of diabetic eye disease.

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