Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition that can cause vision loss, including blindness. The good news is that proper eye care can prevent or reduce its effects. November is Diabetic Eye Disease month, a good time to get the facts on diabetic retinopathy.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease. It happens when diabetes affects blood vessels in the eye. 

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels in the retina start leaking blood and fluid. This can damage the retina, causing vision changes. For example, the leaks can cause swelling in the center of the retina, an area called the macula. This swelling, called macular edema, can decrease your central vision.

Fundus of a patient with diabetic retinopathy; new vessels are growing on the optic disc.

In the later stages of diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels close off. New vessels grow, but don’t work as well as the originals. Plus, their growth can damage the retina, making it pucker or pull away from the back of the eye (a condition called retinal detachment). The new vessels can also bleed and cause other problems.

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy might not cause symptoms at first. That’s why diabetic eye exams are important. If you have diabetes, you need a comprehensive eye exam every year, or more often if your doctor recommends it. Learn about diabetic eye exams.

Diabetic retinopathy symptoms can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Spots or stringy objects that “float” in your vision
  • Loss of central vision
  • Loss of color vision

How is diabetic retinopathy treated?

Doctors can do laser treatment to shrink leaky vessels or reduce fluid. You can also have surgery to repair a detached retina. However, you might still have some vision loss after treatment, especially if the damage was severe.

How can I prevent diabetic retinopathy?

  • Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Have a diabetic eye exam every year, or more often if your doctor recommends it.

Can I get a diabetic eye exam at Oregon Eye Specialists?

Yes! Our doctors are experienced in diabetic eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, the best thing you can do for your eyes is to find an eye doctor you trust and get regular exams. Meet the Oregon Eye Specialists doctors to find the right one for you.

If you wear glasses, the opticians at The Sight Shop can help you find the best lenses and frames, even if diabetic eye disease affects your vision.

Schedule your diabetic eye exam

Call 503-935-5580 or request an appointment online. We have 10 convenient locations for your eye care needs.

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