Retina problems happen when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. This is called diabetic retinopathy. This damage can lead to problems with your vision, including permanent blindness.
High blood sugar levels damage small blood vessels. The weakened blood vessels may break and leak fluid and blood. If the condition worsens, some of the blood vessels close off. This prevents oxygen from getting to the retina. If the retina cannot get oxygen, it tries to grow new blood vessels. These new blood vessels, however, are abnormal and can bleed, cause cloudy vision, and form scar tissue. This scar tissue can pull on the retina, causing a retinal detachment and possible loss of vision.
The longer you have had diabetes and the worse your blood sugar control is, the more likely you are to have retinopathy.
At first, diabetic retinopathy may not cause symptoms. As the problem gets worse, you may have:
The eye care provider will look at your eyes with a special light. He or she will be able to see inside your eyes and look for signs of retinopathy. Your eye care provider may refer you to a retina specialist (an eye doctor who specializes in diseases of the back of the eye).
Early treatment before the retina has been badly damaged can reduce vision loss from this disease. To treat retinopathy, an eye surgeon may use a laser to seal leaking blood vessels and help reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels. These laser treatments are usually done in the office after numbing the eye with drops or shots.
If you have had bleeding into the clear gel that fills the inside of the eye, the eye surgeon may remove the gel in a procedure called a vitrectomy. The gel will be replaced with a clear fluid.
Medicine may be injected in and around the eye to decrease the growth of new blood vessels.
Be sure to ask your eye care provider if these treatments might help you.
As long as you have diabetes, there is a chance you will have retinopathy. However, careful control of your blood sugar level, blood pressure, and cholesterol will help delay and possibly prevent vision loss.
You may need to be treated more than once for retinopathy. Have your eyes checked regularly to make sure you get treatment when you need it.
Retinopathy can cause the retina to become detached. This means the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye. If this happens, you need to see your eye care provider for urgent treatment to reduce the chance of permanent vision loss. Call your provider right away if you start seeing dark spots, floaters, or light flashes or your vision is blocked, blurred, or distorted.
Follow your provider's recommendations and these guidelines:
To help prevent diabetic retinopathy, follow these guidelines: