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Overview

Diabetic retinopathy (die-uh-BET-ik ret-ih-NOP-uh-thee) is a diabetes complication that affects eyes. It''acces-list-container rc-list''re pregnant, your eye doctor may recommend additional eye exams throughout your pregnancy.

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

Causes

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy

for 1 last update 05 Jul 2020

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, the walls of the blood vessels in your retina weaken. Tiny bulges protrude from the vessel walls, sometimes leaking or oozing fluid and blood into the retina. Nerve fibers in the retina may swell, producing white spots in the retina. As diabetic retinopathy progresses, new blood vessels may grow and threaten your vision.

Over time, too much sugar in your blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, cutting off its blood supply. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels. But these new blood vessels don''t growing (proliferating).

When you have NPDR, the walls of the blood vessels in your retina weaken. Tiny bulges (microaneurysms) protrude from the vessel walls of the smaller vessels, sometimes for 1 last update 05 Jul 2020 leaking fluid and blood into the retina. Larger retinal vessels can begin to dilate and become irregular in diameter, as well. NPDR can progress from mild to severe, as more blood vessels become blocked.When you have NPDR, the walls of the blood vessels in your retina weaken. Tiny bulges (microaneurysms) protrude from the vessel walls of the smaller vessels, sometimes leaking fluid and blood into the retina. Larger retinal vessels can begin to dilate and become irregular in diameter, as well. NPDR can progress from mild to severe, as more blood vessels become blocked.

Nerve fibers in the retina may begin to swell. Sometimes the central part of the retina (macula) begins to swell (macular edema), a condition that requires treatment.

  • Advanced diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can progress to this more severe type, known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this type, damaged blood vessels close off, causing the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels in the retina, and can leak into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye (vitreous).

    Eventually, scar tissue stimulated by the growth of new blood vessels may cause the retina to detach from the back of your eye. If the new blood vessels interfere with the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, pressure may build up in the eyeball. This can damage the nerve that carries images from your eye to your brain (optic nerve), resulting in glaucoma.

  • Risk factors

    Anyone who has diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. Risk the 1 last update 05 Jul 2020 of developing the eye condition can increase as a result of:Anyone who has diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. Risk of developing the eye condition can increase as a result of:

    • Duration of diabetes — the longer you have diabetes, the greater your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
    • Poor control of your blood sugar level
    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol
    • Pregnancy
    • Tobacco use
    • Being African-American, Hispanic or Native American

    Complications

    Diabetic retinopathy involves the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina. Complications can lead to serious vision problems:

    • Vitreous hemorrhage. The new blood vessels may bleed into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye. If the amount of bleeding is small, you might see only a few dark spots (floaters). In more-severe cases, blood can fill the vitreous cavity and completely block your vision.

      Vitreous hemorrhage by itself usually doesn''t always prevent diabetic retinopathy. However, regular eye exams, good control of your blood sugar and blood pressure, and early intervention for vision problems can help prevent severe vision loss.

      If you have diabetes, reduce your risk of getting diabetic retinopathy by doing the following:

      • Manage your diabetes. Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, each week. Take oral diabetes medications or insulin as directed.
      • Monitor your blood sugar level. You may need to check and record your blood sugar level several times a day — more-frequent measurements may be required if you''t necessarily lead to vision loss. Taking an active role in diabetes management can go a long way toward preventing complications.

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    May 30, 2018
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    1. Diabetic retinopathy. National Eye Institute. http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy.asp. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
    2. Solomon SD, et al. Diabetic retinopathy: A position statement by the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2017;40:412.
    3. Fraser CE, et al. Diabetic retinopathy: Classification and clinical features. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
    4. Diabetic retinopathy. American Optometrics Association. http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy?sso=y. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
    5. Eye complications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/eye-complications/. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
    6. Fraser CE, et al. Diabetic retinopathy: Prevention and treatment. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 17, 2018.
    7. Leitgeb RA, et al. Doppler optical coherence tomography. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research. 2014;41:26.
    8. Diabetic retinopathy. Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com. Accessed March 17, 2018.
    9. 4 steps to manage diabetes for life. National Diabetes Education Program. http://ndep.nih.gov/publications/publicationdetail.aspx?pubid=4. Accessed Jan. 6, 2015.

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