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Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy: Know the Warning Signs

By Gordon Wong, OD on July 14, 2017


A grandparent and their grandchild with blind spotsPeople in and around La Jolla can count on our team of experienced eye care specialists to preserve their vision and improve their eyesight. We offer expert insight into a host of vision problems and eye conditions, even those that can lead to severe vision impairment.

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of vision loss, yet it's one that people often do not understand. Let's cover the basics of diabetic retinopathy and these go over some common signs, symptoms, and risk factors.

About Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy refers to a complication of diabetes that impacts a person's vision. It involves damage to the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. As blood vessels leak, this damages the retina and leads to the loss of vision.

What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels that cause blockages and eventual damage to the blood vessels in the retinas. The eye will attempt to create new blood vessels to address the problem, though these blood vessels tend to be weak and may leak.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs as a result of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Common Signs and Symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Floaters in your vision
  • Blurry spots affecting your vision
  • Fluctuations in overall vision quality
  • Changes in your perception of color
  • Blank or blind spots in your vision
  • Loss of vision

Diabetic retinopathy tends to affect both eyes rather than just one eye. In its earliest stages, you may not notice any symptoms at all.

Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy becomes more likely if you have suffered from type 1 or type 2 diabetes for many years and have issues with uncontrolled blood sugar.

In addition to the duration of diabetes, the following are also important risk factors to keep in mind:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High cholesterol
  • Use of tobacco products
  • Ethnicity (more common among people of African, Hispanic, and Native American descent)

When Should I See an Eye Doctor?

If you suffer from diabetes and have for many years, it's of the utmost importance that you undergo regular eye exams in order to detect potential early signs of the condition and monitor its progression.

In general, if you have suffered from any of the above listed symptoms and have had diabetes for many years, it is a good idea to visit an eye doctor for a full examination and consultation.

Treatment and Management of Diabetic Retinopathy

The ideal treatment options for diabetic retinopathy involve early detection and proper management of your diabetes. Be sure that your blood sugar is under control and your condition remains in check. Simply being attentive to your type 1 or type 2 diabetes can help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

If the diabetic retinopathy progresses, an eye doctor may recommend anti-VEGF medication, which helps control swelling in the affected portions of the retina. Laser surgery, vitrectomy, and other advanced surgical procedures may prove ideal in more advanced stages of the condition.

Learn More About Diabetic Retinopathy

For more information about diabetic retinopathy and how to preserve your vision for years to come, be sure to contact our experienced team of eye care and vision doctors today. We will work closely with you to help ensure healthy eyes for years to come.

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