Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and estimated 5.4% of American’s over 40 suffer from the condition.   Diabetic retinopathy occurs when too much sugar in a person’s blood stream can lead to the blockage of the blood vessels that fuel the retina, cutting off its blood supply.  As a result, the blood vessels attempt to regenerate themselves unsuccessfully and may leak causing distorted vision.

Many people who are affected by the condition may not recognize the early signs and symptoms of the disease which may include:

  • Distorted vision
  • Impaired color vision
  • Eye floaters and/or colorless spots that occur in the patient’s vision
  • Empty areas in a patient’s vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Sudden and total loss of vision

Anyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.  Although it is treatable with early detection, routine check-ups and proper management of diabetes are important.  As a precaution, people with diabetes should have an annual eye exam to prevent diabetic retinopathy to occur.  A person can be at increased risk as a result of:

  • Poor diet
  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy
  • Tobacco usage
  • Long term diabetes
  • African, Latino, or Native American heritage

Those with diabetic retinopathy may experience complications as a result of the disease including retinal detachment, glaucoma and even blindness.  Several treatment options are available and vary depending on the patient and the severity of their condition.  It’s important for patients to remember that actively managing their diabetes can go a long way in preventing complications.