Diabetic retinopathy (REH-tih-NOP-uh-thee) is the medical term for the most common diabetes eye problem and is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the age of the patient and the duration of the disease. Diabetes, high sugar levels in the blood, damage blood vessels throughout the entire body. Your eye also has many blood vessels in it, and diabetes can also cause damage to those blood vessels.
Having high blood glucose and high blood pressure for a long time can damage these tiny blood vessels. First, these tiny blood vessels swell and weaken. Some blood vessels then become clogged and do not let enough blood through. At first, you might not have any loss of sight from these changes. This is why you need to have a comprehensive eye exam once a year even if your sight seems fine.
Blurred vision or temporary blindness can occur when blood vessels weaken, bulge and leak fluid into surrounding tissue, causing swelling – a condition called macular edema. Abnormal new blood vessels grow on the retina (thin layer of nerve tissue which lines the back of the eye), where they can bleed into the eye and block vision. You may see floating spots or almost total darkness. Sometimes the blood will clear out by itself. But you might need surgery to remove it.
Over the years, the swollen and weak blood vessels can form scar tissue and pull the retina away from the back of the eye. If the retina becomes detached, you may see floating spots or flashing lights. As the disease progresses, the retina can detach from the eye, resulting in permanent blindness. But irreversible vision loss can be prevented with early detection and treatment. This is just one of the reasons it is so important to have your eyes checked on a regular basis. In addition to testing your vision, one or our doctors and his staff will look for any symptoms of eye disease.