What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that results from a loss of blood flow and oxygen to the retina and requires special care. The retina is located in the back of the eye. It collects light and turns it into a signal that is interpreted by the brain as vision. Retinopathy occurs when the retina does not receive enough blood because the vessels in the retina are damaged by high blood sugar. This diabetic eye disease can lead to numerous problems ranging from a minor leakage of blood and plasma in the retina to total blindness.

A few facts you should be aware of regarding diabetic retinopathy:

  • It is a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
  • It usually affects both eyes.
  • It occurs in about 40% of all Type 1 diabetics and 20% of all Type 2 diabetics.
  • The length of time a person has diabetes is a risk factor for the condition.
  • Keeping your blood sugar at an optimal level can greatly reduce the chance of developing diabetic retinopathy.
  • You may not know you have it without a thorough eye exam.

Providence Eye is committed to providing the best technology for all of our patients, which is why we offer Visucam digital photography as part of our diabetic eye care offerings. During your ocular health exams, you will be offered this technology. This camera captures a digital image of your retina and optic nerve that is stored in our electronic medical records. This camera enables the doctors at Providence Eye to better assess, document and care for your retinal health, and thereby promote improved communication with the medical doctor managing your diabetes.

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Is Diabetic Retinopathy Reversible?

Diabetic retinopathy can be slowed but not reversed. This is why early detection and treatment is so important. The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to keep both your diabetes and blood pressure under control.

Other Eye Diseases Diabetics are At Risk For

While diabetic retinopathy is the biggest cause for concern, diabetics are also at a higher risk for cataracts and glaucoma. Cataracts can happen to anyone but can happen at a much earlier age in diabetic patients. They cause your lens to become cloudy and your eye can’t focus like it should, which in turn causes your vision to become blurred. Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up inside of your eye, causing damage to the nerves and blood vessels. Both of these conditions can be treated and potentially reversed, but we highly recommend visiting your eye doctor at least once a year to catch any of these three eye diseases before significant damage occurs.

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