Up to 45 percent of Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, according to the National Institute of Health. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness, occurring when the build-up of sugar in the blood from diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina.Diabetic retinopathy is typically not noticeable at first, but as it progresses it can cause vision loss in both eyes.In the first stage, mild (nonproliferative) retinopathy, there are small areas of swelling in the blood vessels of the retina. In the second stage, moderate (nonproliferative) retinopathy, some of the blood vessels nourishing the retina are blocked. Severe (nonproliferative) retinopathy is the third stage, in which many of the blood vessels are blocked so the blood supply to the retina is deprived. In the fourth, most advanced stage, proliferative retinopathy, new, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow in the retina.Anybody with diabetes -- both type 1 and type 2 -- can develop diabetic retinopathy. In the early stages, there may not be any symptoms, so the best way to prevent early vision loss from diabetic retinopathy is to get a comprehensive eye exam each year. The exam should include a visual acuity test, a dilated eye exam, and a tonometry test.
The visual acuity test measures how well you see at distances. Drops are placed in your eye for a dilated eye exam, and then a magnifying lens examines your retina and optic nerve. With a tonometry test, numbing drops are applied to your eye and an instrument measures your eye's pressure.
Throughout the eye exam, the doctor will check your retina for leaking blood vessels, retinal swelling, fatty deposits on the retina, and damaged nerve tissue. Since there are rarely symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, the best way to prevent vision loss is to have regular vision checks. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness in both eyes.
Reference URL 1. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/diabeticretinopathy/whatisdiabeticretinopathy...
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