Diabetic Retinopathy: Causes and Risk Factors
According to the National Institute of Health's website, diabetic retinopathy is among the more common complications of diabetes. It occurrs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina.
Persons with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Approximately 40% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes suffer from some stage of diabetic retinopathy. To help catch diabetic retinopathy in its early stages, it is important that people with diabetes undergo a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. Once diabetic retinopathy is recognized, a doctor can recommend treatment to help slow the progression of the disease.
Damaged blood vessels from diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness in two ways:
- Delicate, abnormal blood vessels that form in the eye can leak blood into the eye, blurring vision and causing blindness. This is a symptom of stage four diabetic retinopathy, which is the most advanced stage of the disease.
- Fluid may leak into the macula, the part of the eye where straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This condition is known as macular edema. Macular edema can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy, but it happens most often when the disease has progressed.