Retinopathy is damage to the thin layer of tissue in the back of the eye called the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the blood vessels in the retina caused by Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
There are 2 types of diabetic retinopathy:
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Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in the blood. Over time, this excess glucose can cause damage to small blood vessels throughout the body. The blood vessels in the retina are sensitive to this type of damage.
High glucose can cause the blood vessels in the retina to swell, leak, or close off. The damaged blood vessels may then be replaced with weaker blood vessels that also bleed into the eye or create scarring. The bleeding, swelling, and scarring can weaken or interfere with vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is more common in people of African American, Hispanic, and south Asian descent.
Factors that may increase your risk of diabetic retinopathy include:
Early diabetic retinopathy may not cause any symptoms. Over time, diabetic retinopathy can cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be referred to an eye specialist. A comprehensive eye exam and vision test will be done.
Images will be taken of your eye after dilation of your pupils. This can be done with:
Early stages of the disease may not require eye treatment but management of blood glucose, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure will help slow or stop damage. Your doctor will monitor your condition.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
Proper management of blood glucose levels can help slow or stop damage in the eye. Management can include:
Your eye doctor may advise medications to reduce the damage to your eye such as:
In some cases, surgery may be recommended to help slow or stop the progression on the retinopathy. Surgical treatments may include:
To help reduce your chance of getting diabetic retinopathy:
American Diabetes Association
American Optometric Association
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Diabetic retinopathy. American Optometric Association website. Available at: http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy?sso=y. Accessed August 24, 2017.
Diabetic retinopathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116611/Diabetic-retinopathy. Updated February 7, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2017.
Diabetic retinopathy. University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center website. Available at: http://www.kellogg.umich.edu/patientcare/conditions/diabetic.retinopathy.html. Accessed August 24, 2017.
Facts about diabetic retinopathy. National Eye Institute website. Available at: https://nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy. Updated September 2015. Accessed August 24, 2017.
What is diabetic retinopathy? Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/diabetic-retinopathy/index.cfm. Updated March 1, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 8/12/2015