Diabetes Mellitus is a common disease in which blood sugar levels are elevated due to a lack of insulin or a resistance to the effects of insulin.  The disease has many related complications. Among these complications is diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of adult blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the small blood vessels in the retina.  In the early phase of the disease, these vessels leak blood and fluid. This can cause swelling of the retina and blurring of vision.  This stage of the disease is known as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

A more advanced stage called proliferative diabetic retinopathy can develop over time.  In this form, damaged blood vessels lead to poor circulation in the retina.  New blood vessels develop to make up for the lack of circulation.  Unfortunately, these new vessels are not functional and lead to scarring, bleeding and may cause retinal detachment and severe or total vision loss. 

Diabetic retinopathy may not produce any symptoms in the early stages.

Yearly eye examinations are required for all patients with diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed by your ophthalmologist during an eye exam long before noticeable vision symptoms occur and when more treatment options are still available.  It is very important for those suffering from diabetes to have regular eye exams to monitor for diabetic retinopathy and other complications.


Treatments for diabetic retinopathy vary based upon the nature and progression of the condition.  The best way to preserve good vision is to consistently control blood-sugar levels.  Patients with fluid leakage into the retina may require laser treatment to seal the leaking blood vessels.  Additional therapy with injectable medications may be required as well.
Once the disease has advanced to the proliferative retinopathy stage your ophthalmologist may choose a type of laser surgery, called pan-retinal photocoagulation.  This technique places many tiny laser spots throughout the retina, with the aim of discouraging further abnormal blood vessel growth.  This surgery does not cure diabetic retinopathy, but it can help to save remaining vision.  Occasionally, an operation called a vitrectomy is required if there is extensive bleeding or retinal detachment in the back of the eye. 


If you have diabetes, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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