Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes mellitus and is one of the main causes of blindness in young and middle-aged adults today. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.
Diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs. But over time, it can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.
Vision with diabetic retinopathy
What are the types of diabetic retinopathy?Diabetes affects the peripheral and central retina in different ways. The peripheral retina can be affected by non-proliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, also known as background diabetic retinopathy, is the early stage of diabetic retinopathy and occurs when the small retina blood vessels become affected and begin to leak and bleed. At this stage, vision is usually not affected.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is associated with a high risk of permanent loss of vision. There is growth of abnormal new blood vessels in the retina. These abnormal new vessels can rupture, causing significant bleeding that will lead to loss of vision.
Progressively, scar tissues form and cause retinal detachment. The abnormal blood vessels can grow on the iris and block fluid outflow from the eye. Neovascular glaucoma can develop with a risk of optic nerve damage and blindness.
The central retina can also be affected by diabetic macular oedema. In the advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, vessels in the centre of the retina leak fluid causing retinal swelling and loss of central vision.
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