Diabetics can develop an eye disease known as diabetic retinopathy, which is caused by damage to blood vessels in the retina due to high blood sugar.
The damaged blood vessels either swell and leak or they close up preventing blood from passing through. In some case, abnormal blood vessels grown on the retina. Any of these scenarios lead to a loss of vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is marked by two stages:
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR):¬†This is the early stage of diabetic retinopathy and is the most prevalent form. In this stage, the blood vessels leak causing the retina to swell. This in turn leads to the macula swelling, which is known as macular edema. In addition, blood vessels in the retina can close off causing macular ischemia. This is due to the lack of blood flow to the macula and the formation of exudates that in the retina. The NPDR stage causes the patient to have blurry vision.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR):¬†This is the advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy and happens when the retina grows new blood vessels otherwise known as neovascularization. These new vessels usually bleed into the vitreous which may cause the patient to see floaters. If there is significant bleeding, it can dramatically reduce vision. Scar tissue can also form due to the new blood vessels, and the scar tissue may cause a detached retina. This severe stage of diabetic retinopathy can cause both central and peripheral vision loss.
It is important for diabetic patients to get yearly comprehensive, dilated eye exams to diagnose diabetic retinopathy in the early stage. so that treatment can begin. Diabetic patients should also immediately notify their eye care provider of any changes in vision.*