Diabetes can affect your body in many ways. It can also have an effect on your vision and your eyes. For example, people with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at an earlier age and are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as are non-diabetics. But the primary vision problem caused by diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness and low vision in adults.
Retinopathy is the term used to describe damage to the retina, the thin, light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside surface of the eye. Diabetic Retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels that nourish the tissues and nerve cells in the retina are damaged. Sometimes abnormal new blood vessels grow fast, or proliferate, in the retina. That condition is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy and it affects about one in twenty people with the disease.
The four stages of diabetic retinopathy are:
- Mild non-proliferative retinopathy – Small areas of balloon-like swellings occur in the tiny blood vessels in the retina.
- Moderate non-proliferative retinopathy – Some of the blood vessels that nourish the retina become blocked.
- Severe non-proliferative retinopathy – Many more blood vessels become blocked, which disrupts the blood supply nourishing the retina.
- Proliferative retinopathy – Signals sent by the retina trigger the development of new blood vessels in the retina and the vitreous, the transparent gel that fills the interior of the eye. Because these new blood vessels are abnormal, they can rupture and bleed, causing hemorrhaging. Scar tissue can develop, tug at the retina and may cause retinal detachment.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may include:
- Flashing lights (which may indicate a retinal detachment)
- A cloud, veil, streaks of red, or blank spots in your field of vision
- Blurred or double vision
If you think you may be suffering from the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, call to schedule an appointment. At DeLaine, we care about your eyes and can discuss any concerns or questions you may have: (219) 464-7546.