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.