Services

Diabetic Retinopathy

A Complication of Diabetes Involving Abnormal Blood Vessels Which Nourish the Retina of the Eye

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults. Approximately, 25% of current diabetics have some form of the disease. The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the age of the diabetic person and the duration of the disease. It is estimated that 90% of diabetics may experience some form of diabetic retinopathy over the course of their life. However, only a small percentage of those developing diabetic retinopathy have serious vision problems and even a smaller percentage become blind.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes mellitus which causes abnormalities in the tiny blood vessels nourishing the retina. These vessels weaken, leak fluid and blood, and fail to provide nutrients necessary for good health in the retina. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can result in severe visual loss, including blindness.

What is the retina?

The retina is a thin layer of delicate nerve tissue which lines the back portion of the eye. Light enters the eye and is focused by the lens through the transparent gel-like fluid (vitreous) onto the retina. The retina then changes the image into electric impulses which are carried to the brain by the optic nerve.

The retina has two main parts-the macula and the peripheral retina. The macula is located in the middle portion of the retina close to the optic nerve. The macula is responsible for central vision and color vision. The peripheral retina is the outer region of the retina and is responsible for side vision, as well as night vision.

What is background diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy can take two forms, background retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy. During the early stage of the disease (background retinopathy), small blood vessels in the retina leak a clear fluid (serum)into the surrounding tissue which causes swelling. Abnormal blood vessels may also hemorrhage or leak fats and proteins which form deposits. If fluid collects in the macula, diminished or blurred vision will result. However, if leakage or deposits occur I the outer edges of the retina, no symptoms may be noticed.

Sight is not usually seriously affected in cases of background retinopathy. In fact, the condition does not progress in 80% of patients. However, background retinopathy is a warning sign and can progress into the more serious stage of the disease, proliferative retinopathy.

^ Back to top of page