Diabetic Retinopathy: What It Is and Why an Annual Screening Is Essential

an older gentleman looking up at the sky

Diabetes can be incredibly difficult on the body. While most people understand its impact on blood sugar management, diabetes can also lead to a range of other conditions, including diabetic retinopathy.  

If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetic retinopathy can rob you of your vision, potentially permanently. If you are wondering what diabetic retinopathy is, what the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are, and why annual screening is so critical, here’s what you need to know.  

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?  

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition where the blood vessels in the retina of your eye get weaker. Weaker vessels can leak, allowing fluid, blood, or lipids to build up in the retina. As this occurs, it can cause ischemia, meaning the eye isn’t getting proper blood flow.  

As the condition worsens, ischemia leads to the growth of abnormal blood vessels, often an attempt by the body to restore blood flow. However, the blood vessels can cause fluid leakage into the vitreous of the eye, resulting in changes that can lead to a tractional retinal detachment, a condition that can cause significant – and potentially permanent – vision loss  

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy  

During the early stages of the condition, many people have little or no symptoms. However, as diabetic retinopathy worsens, people may have:  

  • Blurry Vision  
  • Distorted Vision 
  • Declining Color Acuity  
  • Decreasing Night Vision  
  • Increasing Floaters  
  • Trouble Reading  
  • Difficulty Seeing Objects at a Distance  

At times, the symptoms are lasting. However, they may also come and go, something that may cause them to go unnoticed or be disregarded as not serious, even though they indicate a genuine problem.  

If diabetic retinopathy leads to a retinal detachment, other symptoms can develop, including:  

  • Flashes of Light  
  • Sudden Appearance of a Large Number of Floaters  
  • Reduced Peripheral Vision  
  • Darkness or Curtain-Like Shadow Over Visual Field  
  • Blurred Vision  

Retinal detachments can cause dramatic vision loss. Without quick action, the loss can be permanent. As a result, if you experience any of the symptoms above, it’s considered an emergency, and you should seek medical attention immediately.  

Why You Need an Annual Screening for Diabetic Retinopathy  

If you have diabetes, you are at risk of diabetic retinopathy. While you may not experience symptoms of diabetic retinopathy initially, an eye doctor can see signs of the condition during an exam.  

That’s why getting an annual screening is so vital. It allows your eye doctor to identify the condition at the earliest possible stage, decreasing the odds that you’ll experience vision loss or a retinal detachment.  

Diabetic retinopathy is treatable, particularly if caught early. Any abnormal blood vessel growth can be addressed, and steps can be taken to slow the progression of the disease, all of which help you preserve your vision longer.  

At ECVA, our staff works diligently to care for the eye health of patients of all ages, including screening for harmful conditions like diabetic retinopathy. If you are experiencing any vision changes or are a diabetic and haven’t had a diabetic retinopathy screening within the last year, schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.  

What to Expect as Our Eyes Age

smiling older woman

Most people understand that aging impacts the human body. However, many people are caught off guard when it comes to how aging effects our eyes. 

Age-related eye changes are fairly common, though each one has a different kind of impact. Some may produce mild discomfort or easily correctable vision changes, while others may have a lasting effect on visual acuity. At times, age-related eye changes can be serious, causing permanent loss of vision and more. 

If you are wondering about age-related eye problems, here is a quick overview of some of the most common ones. 

Common Age-Related Eye Changes 


Presbyopia is an eye condition where you lose visual acuity when viewing an object up close or reading small print. Those who suffer from it may start holding things they need to read further away from their face to try and compensate, may have trouble reading, or might experience headaches when doing up-close work. 

In most cases, reading glasses or bifocals are enough to correct the issue. However, you may need to update the strength of your lenses regularly to compensate for ongoing changes. 

Dry Eye 

As we age, our tear ducts may struggle to produce enough tears to keep our eyes comfortable. Usually, the most common side effects are discomfort and a reduction in visual clarity. 

Luckily, this is an issue that can often be addressed with eye drops or a humidifier. However, severe cases may require surgery to correct. 


At times, excessive tearing also occurs when people age. Often, it’s the of a shift in light, wind, or temperature change sensitivity, though it could also be caused by a tear duct issue or eye infection. Some people with dry eye might also experience periods of excessive tearing. Usually, it’s an attempt to rehydrate the eye that goes a bit overboard. 

In many cases, the core causes can be addressed by your eye doctor, alleviating the tearing issue. 


Floaters are tiny spots that seem to drift across your visual field. In many cases, they are normal and of no concern. However, if accompanied by flashes of light or if they increase dramatically, it could indicate a more significant problem. 


Cataracts form when various proteins found in the eye begin to clump, leading to cloudiness in the lens of a person’s eye. As the cloudiness worsens, a person’s vision becomes blurry or makes it seem like everything is covered in a fog. Usually, they form slowly over time, making them more common in older individuals. Thankfully, cataract surgery is often quite effective, potentially fully restoring any lost visual acuity caused by cataracts. 

Macular Degeneration 

Age-related macular degeneration leads to the loss of central vision, though not total blindness. Often, people with it struggle to read or recognize faces. As with many conditions, early detection and treatment are crucial for preserving vision. If a case is advanced, there is no cure, though its progress may be slowed with certain kinds of treatment. 


Glaucoma is a condition that occurs when the pressure in the eye increases, something that is more likely to emerge as a person ages. If not treated, it can lead to permanent vision loss and even blindness 

What to Do If You Experience Visions Changes 

While many of the age-related changes above are common, that doesn’t mean they should go unaddressed. In many cases, proper treatment can restore or improve visual acuity, allowing you to see better as you age. 

Additionally, some of the symptoms above could be indicative of other eye issues, including some that may lead to irreversible eye damage. As a result, it is always wise to see your eye doctor if you experience any changes to your vision. That way, they can identify the cause of your issue and plan an appropriate course of treatment, should one be necessary. 

At ECVA, our staff works diligently to care for the eye health of patients of all ages, ensuring they can see as clearly as possible today and into the future. If you are experiencing any vision changes or simply haven’t had an eye exam recently, schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.