Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness in the US.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of adults over the age of 40 with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy. Fortunately, it is largely preventable and treatable if addressed early.
Diabetes causes damage to the tiny vessels of the retina, affecting the blood supply that nourishes the retina. Abnormal blood vessels grow in response to the lack of nourishment, and these vessels can leak, bleed, or distort the retina. Treatment depends on the severity of diabetic damage and may include observation, laser, injection of medication, or surgery.
All diabetics should be screened at least annually. This is essential because significant damage can occur without noticeable symptoms, and is irreversible. If diabetic retinopathy develops, early detection allows for a better treatment outcome. If you have diabetes, be sure to get your eyes checked with a dilated eye exam every year.
The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye condition. Not all diabetic eye findings require treatment, but all diabetics need to be monitored. The risk of diabetic retinopathy can be dramatically reduced by maintaining glucose levels as directed by the doctor monitoring your diabetes. In addition, proper diet, exercise, blood pressure control, and avoiding smoking are very important.
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