Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, occurring in about 25?50% of people with diabetes.
People with Type 1 diabetes are especially at risk for retinopathy. When Type 1 diabetes coexists with hypertension, a person may be four times as likely to develop proliferative retinopathy, the most damaging form of diabetic retinopathy. It occurs in about 60% of people with Type I diabetes and in about 5% of people with Type II diabetes within about two decades after diabetes is diagnosed.
When diagnosed early in the course of the disease, diabetic retinopathy can be effectively managed. Annual eye examinations are essential in diabetic care to prevent permanently impaired or lost vision.
Vision defects accompanying Type I diabetes are somewhat common, and can lead to blindness without prompt and ongoing intervention. Diabetic retinopathy that can cause vision loss occurs with damage to the retina where light-sensitive cells are located and images are processed.
Signs and Symptoms
In its earliest stages, diabetic retinopathy usually does not produce symptoms. Once macular edema develops, vision blurs and the quality of vision may fluctuate.
Bleeding can also cause vision loss, as the disease advances. As bleeding and leakage increase, vision decreases. In severe cases, vision is so impaired that the patient is only able to distinguish light from dark in the affected eye.
Diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser photocoagulation to seal off leaking blood vessels and destroy new growth. Another procedure called a vitrectomy removes blood that has leaked into the vitreous humor. Lost vitreous humor is gradually replaced by the body, and vision improves.