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.