Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication that affects the eyes and it is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, also known as the retina. At first, diabetic retinopathy causes no symptoms or only mild vision problems, but eventually, it can lead to complete blindness. Diabetic retinopathy can develop in any individual who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, the less controlled your blood sugar will be, and the more likely you are to develop this eye complication.
You might not have symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, but as the condition progresses, these are the symptoms that might surface:
- Blurred vision
- Spots: At times they also appear as dark floating strings which blur your vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
- Vision loss
Here are the two types of diabetic retinopathy:
Early diabetic retinopathy: The most common form of diabetic retinopathy is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), in which the new blood vessels stop growing. In this condition, the walls of the blood vessels in the retina get weaken, and tiny bulges protrude from the walls of the smaller vessels. At times, fluid or blood also leaks through these vessels into the retina. NPDR can progress from mild to severe when the number of blocked blood vessels increases.
Advanced diabetic retinopathy: A more severe condition of diabetic retinopathy is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this situation, the damaged blood vessels close off, causing the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels in the retina, which can further leak into the clear, jellylike substance that fills the center of your eye. If the new blood vessels interfere with the normal flow of fluid out of the eye, a lot of pressure can be on the eyeball. The buildup can damage the nerve (optic nerve), which is responsible to carry images from your eye to your brain leading to glaucoma.
Here are the risk factors that can lead to this complication:
- Having diabetes for a long time
- Poor control of your blood sugar level
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Tobacco use