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Diabetic Retinopathy Q & A

If you’re affected by diabetes, you may be susceptible to a simultaneous condition known as diabetic retinopathy.

High blood sugar levels are dangerous in many ways, including its effects on blood vessels in your eyes. Schedule a visit with general and medical optometrist Dr. Mary Espy in Flint, Michigan, if you’re at risk for diabetic retinopathy. You can schedule an appointment by calling or requesting online.


What is diabetic retinopathy?

The high blood sugar levels associated with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can also affect your vision. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar causes swelling or leaking of the blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels may also close and completely inhibit blood from flowing. In rare cases, there may be an abnormal growth of new blood vessels on the retina. All instances of diabetic retinopathy have the potential to damage your vision and lead to blindness.

What are symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy typically doesn’t yield symptoms during its early stages. Signs tend to arise as the condition progresses. Symptoms you should look out for include:

  • Spots of dark strings floating in your vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Impaired color vision
  • Dark or empty areas in your vision
  • Vision loss

If you have diabetes, it’s smart to schedule regular eye exams to detect diabetic retinopathy in its early stages, even if you aren’t experiencing any vision problems.

What are causes of diabetic retinopathy?

There are two types of diabetic retinopathy that have some shared and some different causes. In general, high blood sugar levels cut off the blood supply in the retina, and the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels to accommodate for the restriction. These new blood vessels, however, don’t develop properly and often cause leakage.

Early diabetic retinopathy is referred to as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy. The blood vessels in the retina become increasingly blocked, and tiny bulges of the smaller vessels leak fluid and blood into the retina.

More advanced and severe stages of diabetic retinopathy are known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

During those stages, the damaged blood vessels close off completely and lead to the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels in the retina. This growth may even cause the retina to detach from the back of your eye. The inhibited flow of fluid can also lead to glaucoma.

What are risk factors for diabetic retinopathy?

In addition to having diabetes, other risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Poor control of your blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy
  • Tobacco use

You should schedule an eye exam if you have any of these risk factors. Dr. Mary Espy can diagnose diabetic retinopathy and provide the necessary measures to keep it from advancing.