Diabetic Retinopathy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Young Woman Pointing at Her Eye | Florida Eye Specialists

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication within the retina caused by diabetes. Symptoms of this condition are not always noticeable — many cases go unnoticed until they become severe. That’s why it is important to receive a comprehensive dilated eye exam annually.

Diagnosing diabetic retinopathy early can help you take steps to protect your vision and prevent long-term damage. At Florida Eye Specialists, your vision needs are our top priority. Our team of experienced retina specialists is here to answer all of your questions.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetes hinders the body’s ability to use and store sugar, which results in a variety of health issues like diabetic retinopathy. This condition causes progressive damage to the retina due to blood vessel damage from high blood sugar. Diabetic individuals with high blood pressure and cholesterol face higher risks of developing eye disease.

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious sight-threatening complication and should be monitored closely. There are two types of the condition — nonproliferative diabetes-related retinopathy (NPDR) and proliferative diabetes-related retinopathy (PDR).

Non proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR)

NPDR is a more common type of diabetic retinopathy and causes the blood vessels in the retina to weaken. In some cases, small amounts of fluid from blood vessels may leak into the eye, causing macular swelling. However, symptoms of NPDR are typically mild and go unnoticed.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR)

PDR is a more serious stage of the condition and often results in more severe symptoms. In this stage, damaged blood vessels within the eye become closed off due to poor circulation. As a result, new blood vessels grow on the retina, which is a process called neovascularization.

Can Diabetic Retinopathy be reversed?

Unfortunately, diabetic retinopathy can cause serious vision damage and even permanent vision loss if not treated. This is because the growth of abnormal blood vessels causes scar tissue growth, which may result in retinal detachment. The good news is that this condition is treatable and preventable if caught early. When symptoms of diabetic retinopathy arise, it is important to visit your eye doctor immediately.

What are the warning signs of diabetes-related eye problems?

Many signs of diabetic-related eye problems are not noticeable until the disease has progressed, so it is crucial for patients to know what to pay attention to. Diabetic retinopathy symptoms often include blurry vision and seeing floaters, spots or dark areas in your field of vision.

As the condition progresses, blurry vision may worsen. Patients may also begin to experience distorted vision or complete vision loss. Other diabetic-related eye conditions like macular edema may result in similar symptoms.

Diabetic macular edema, which occurs due to fluid build-up in the retina, typically results in blurriness and floaters in your field of vision, as well as the faded appearance of colors. No matter the severity, all symptoms of diabetic-related eye conditions should be taken seriously and examined by a professional.

What is the best treatment for diabetic retinopathy?

Finding the right treatment for diabetic retinopathy can be challenging due to different levels of severity. However, at Florida Eye Specialists, you’ll receive care from a diabetic retinopathy specialist who can help find the right treatment plan for you.

Mild cases of diabetic retinopathy can be treated with careful diabetes management and blood sugar moderation. Patients can manage their blood sugar levels with insulin and alter their diet to avoid sugar and saturated fats.

Surgery or eye injections for diabetic retinopathy

More severe cases of this condition may require laser treatment to seal the abnormal blood vessels or prevent new leaky blood vessels from forming. Injections of medications into the eye may be needed to decrease inflammation. A surgical procedure may also be necessary to remove and replace the gel-like fluid in the back of the eye or reattach the retina.

Schedule an eye exam in Jacksonville, FL

While both forms of diabetic retinopathy are treatable, it is important to look out for symptoms in their earliest stages to avoid long-term eye damage. Individuals with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year to catch symptoms of the condition early. Schedule an appointment with Florida Eye Specialists today to receive personalized vision care from a team of retinal disease experts you can trust.