Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the fragile vascular network that supplies the retina – the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that helps us see – begins to swell or leak. During the beginning stages of the disease, there may be no noticeable symptoms, so it’s important to have your eyes checked at least once a year if you have diabetes.
Once symptoms of diabetic retinopathy do develop, they can include: dark or black spots in your visual field, or blurry vision, and it increases over time. This is a result of bleeding at the back of the eye, which prevents a clear image from being transmitted from the retina to the brain.
Whether you have type 1, type 2, or even just gestational diabetes, you are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have had the disease, the greater the risk. It is essential to keep your blood sugar levels under control to prevent vision loss.
There are a number of treatment options for diabetic retinopathy. Photocoagulation, or laser treatment, is usually very effective at preventing vision loss if it is done before the retina has become severely damaged. Surgical removal of the vitreous gel, or victrectomy, may also help improve vision if the retina is still relatively healthy. Sometimes injections of an anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) medicine or an anti-inflammatory medicine help to shrink new blood vessel growth in proliferative diabetic retinopathy.