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Reality Bites - My Meal Plan


(complications of the eyes)

Retinopathy is the most common and most serious eye complication of diabetes. It can lead to poor vision or even blindness. Nearly half of people with known diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely it is you will develop diabetic retinopathy.

Causes

High blood sugar levels cause damage to the tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye (retina). In the early stages of retinopathy, most people do not notice any vision changes. As retinopathy progresses, many other complications can occur. One of these complications is maculopathy. This occurs when the damaged blood vessels start to leak fluid causing swelling of the macula (the part of the retina that lets us see details), which leads to blurred vision. Vitreous hemorrhage, another complication, is caused by large amount of bleeding from newly formed blood vessels in the retina, which can cause temporary vision loss. This, however, can also lead to the detachment of the retina, which causes permanent damage to your sight. Lastly, rubeotic glaucoma, a painful condition where new blood vessels can grow around the iris of the eye causes visual impairment.

Signs and symptoms

There are usually no symptoms or pain. However, it is important to know that the disease can progress to an advanced stage without any noticeable change in your vision. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may include:

  • "Spiders," "cobwebs" or tiny specks floating in your vision
  • Dark streaks or a red film that blocks vision
  • Vision loss or blurred vision
  • A dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Difficulty adjusting from bright light to dim light

Take home message
Early detection and treatment is extremely important for the protection of your sight. Retinopathy is treatable if caught in the early stages. The risk of severe vision loss from retinopathy is small if you can take steps to protect your sight. Make sure you have a yearly eye examination and keep your blood sugar and blood pressure within the recommended ranges.