Diabetic retinopathy is a potential complication in patients with diabetes. High blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina, making them leaky; this may cause blood or fluid to accumulate in your retina or macula (i.e. central part of the retina). Damage to blood vessels can also obstruct them (causing lack of blood flow to retina). As a result of the latter, new abnormal blood vessels may grow on the retina. All of these complications can cause your vision to decline, often permanently if not treated promptly.
When Diabetic Retinopathy is detected early, treatment is 95% effective in preventing severe vision loss.
Diabetic Retinopathy in Adults
Adults who are diagnosed with diabetes need at least yearly eye exams with dilating eye drops, more frequently if there is evidence of diabetic retinopathy in their exam. Diabetic eye disease can be more easily managed when diagnosed early. Learn more here
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR)
In this stage, tiny blood vessels leak as a result of diabetic damage, making the retina swell. When the macula swells, it is called macular edema. This is the most common reason why people with diabetes lose their vision.
Also with NPDR, blood vessels in the retina can close off. This is called macular ischemia. When that happens, blood cannot reach the macula and patient can lose vision.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR):
PDR is the more advanced stage of diabetic eye disease. It happens when the retina starts growing new blood vessels. This is called neovascularization. These fragile new vessels often bleed into the eye and cause floaters or vision loss.
These new blood vessels can also form scar tissue. Scar tissue can cause problems with the macula or lead to a serious condition with pulled off, elevated (detached) retina that can only be fixed with a complex deep eye surgery called Pars Plana Vitrectomy.