What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Using light, your retinas send messages to your brain to interpret the images you see. If you have uncontrolled Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, it’s possible to develop diabetic retinopathy as an additional side effect of your disease. If diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels in your retinas and you don’t treat it, it can lead to permanent vision loss.

As you get older, you become more susceptible to developing diabetic retinopathy as a side effect of diabetes. Keeping your blood sugar levels at manageable levels may help prevent the onset of symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. If you already have signs and symptoms of the condition, it’s important to follow up with your doctor, as vision loss is common, but can sometimes be reversed.

What Are the Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a slowly progressing condition, so you may not notice as it develops in its early stages. Regular eye exams are the best way to detect and prevent diabetic retinopathy, especially if you have any of the following warning signs and symptoms:

  • You see faded or washed out colors instead of bright, vibrant colors
  • You see strings, spots, or floaters in your line of sight
  • You have blurred vision
  • Some areas of your peripheral vision appear dark
  • Your vision fluctuates between being in focus to becoming blurry
  • You have difficulty seeing at night
These common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy occur when too much blood sugar blocks the tiny blood vessels that nourish your retinas. As your body attempts to replace the blocked blood vessels with new ones, the new ones don’t develop properly and leak fluid and blood into your eye.

What Treatments Are Available if I Have Diabetic Retinopathy?

Treatment for diabetic retinopathy usually depends on the extent of the condition and how it’s affecting your vision and your overall well-being. If you have mild to moderate diabetic retinopathy, Dr. Bertolucci closely monitors your vision and eye health to determine when you need treatment. However, if you have a more advanced form of the disease, you may need laser surgery to correct the problems within your retina.

There are several different types of laser surgical procedures to correct diabetic retinopathy, and the team at Associated Eye Physicians determines which one is most effective for your individual condition. Additionally, injecting medicine called vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors (VEGF) into your eye can also help stop new blood vessels from forming and causing problems with your vision.

Laser surgery and VEGF injections often slow or stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy, but since diabetes is a lifelong condition, it’s important to follow up with your doctor to prevent additional damage to your retinas and vision loss in your future.