In later stages, the disease may lead to new blood vessel growth over the retina. The new blood vessels can cause scar tissue to develop, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This is known as retinal detachment, and it can lead to blindness if untreated. In addition, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris, which can lead to glaucoma. People with diabetes are 25 times more likely to lose vision than those who are not diabetic, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology
Another sign is double vision, which occurs when the nerves controlling the eye muscles are affected. If you experience any of these signs, see your Optometrist or Ophthalmologist immediately. Otherwise, diabetics should see their eye Optometrist at least once a year for a dilated eye exam.
Your Ophthalmologist may diagnose retinopathy using a special test called fluorescein angiography. In this test, dye is injected into the body and then gradually appears within the retina due to blood flow. Your Ophthalmologist will photograph the retina with the illuminated dye. Evaluating these pictures tells your Ophthalmologist how far the disease has progressed.
High blood sugar can damage blood vessels in the retina, and when they are damaged, they can leak fluid or bleed. This causes the retina to swell and form deposits. This is an early form of diabetic retinopathy called nonproliferative or background retinopathy. In a later stage, called proliferative retinopathy, new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.
These new blood vessels can lead to serious vision problems because they can break and bleed into the vitreous, the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the centre of the eye. Proliferative retinopathy is a much more serious form of the disease and can lead to blindness.
Fortunately, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by using common sense and taking good care of yourself
- Keep your blood sugar under good control
- Monitor your blood pressure and keep it under good control, or seek appropriate care
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Follow your Ophthalmologist’s instructions to the letter
In some patients, blood leaks into the vitreous humor and clouds vision. Your Ophthalmologist may choose to simply wait to see if the clouding will dissipate on its own, a period called “watchful waiting”. A procedure called a vitrectomy removes blood that has leaked into the vitreous humor. The body gradually replaces lost vitreous humor, and vision usually improves.