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Diabetic Retinopathy

Your doctor of optometry can be the first health care professional to discover diabetes, high blood pressure, or other signs of systemic diseases that also affect your eyes. Any diabetic or family member of a diabetic should have their eyes examined at least once a year, even if vision seems clear.

In its earliest stages, this disease is called background diabetic retinopathy. It is typified by small dot and blot-like hemorrhages, and other evidence of leakage of blood vessels into the retina.

The more advanced stage of diabetes in the eye is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). Since the retina is not receiving enough blood and oxygen due to abnormalities of the small blood vessels, abnormal or "new" blood vessels grow. These can break and bleed, causing a large hemorrhage in the eye and subsequent retinal detachment, which could lead to blindness.

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?
Vision that is suddenly or gradually blurred, either straight ahead or to the side, can indicate a retinal problem from diabetes. In addition, black spots, floaters, "cobwebs" or flashing lights in your field of vision can be indications that diabetes has affected your eyes. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.

How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
Laser therapy, used in both the early and advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, can be effective in preventing vision loss in many individuals.

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