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Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy

While the understanding and treatment of diabetes has improved greatly over the past decade, one of the serious side effects that often gets overlooked about the disease is its potential affect on the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

Diabetic retinopathy often gets overlooked because in its initial stages there may be no noticeable symptoms or simply mild vision problems, which too often get ignored. But untreated and ignored, diabetic retinopathy can potentially lead to blindness.

Anyone with type 1 or 2 diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have the disease, the more likely you are to potentially develop diabetic retinopathy – especially of your blood sugar is less controlled than recommended by your physician.

Prevention is crucial if you’re going to protect your vision. The easiest step is closely monitoring and controlling your blood sugar level. Another essential is an annual exam.

What makes it so difficult to treat diabetic retinopathy is that it’s possible to have the condition but be unaware of it. In the early stages, it’s often unlikely to have any easily recognizable symptoms. Later, if untreated, symptoms often included floaters, blurred vision, fluctuating vision, loss of color perception or, in extreme cases, vision loss.

Depending on the symptoms, diabetic retinopathy – which almost always affects both eyes – is recognized as early (Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy – NPDR) or advanced (Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy – PDR).

Contact your eye care professional immediately if there are any sudden changes to your vision or if it becomes spotty or blurry.

Careful management of your diabetes is the easily the smartest and best way to be proactive in the prevention of vision loss. If you have diabetes, a yearly dilated eye exam with your eye care professional – even if you are not experiencing any problems with your vision – is imperative for early detection of the condition.

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