What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Anatomy of the EyeDiabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina due to diabetes. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid while, in others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy cannot be completely avoided, but the risk can be greatly reduced. Better control of blood sugar slows the onset and progression of retinopathy and lessens the need for laser surgery for severe retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. Diabetics are also at a higher risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.

All of these conditions can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. Fortunately, diabetic eye disease can be treated before vision loss occurs. All people with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.