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Patient Education: Diseases Conditions Treatments & Procedures

Diabetic Retinopathy

Introduction

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common and most serious eye complication of diabetes, which may result in poor vision or even blindness.

Retinopathy is the medical term for damage to the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish the retina, the tissue at the back of your eye that captures light and relays information to your brain. These blood vessels are often affected by the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes.

The longer you have diabetes, the more likely it is you'll develop diabetic retinopathy. Nearly half of people with known diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy. Initially, most people with diabetic retinopathy experience only mild vision problems. But the condition can worsen and threaten your vision.

You can take steps to protect your sight if you have diabetes. These include a yearly eye examination and steps to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol under the best possible control.

In the early, most treatable stages of diabetic retinopathy, you usually experience no visual symptoms or pain. The disease can even progress to an advanced stage without any noticeable change in your vision. Other symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may include: "Spiders," "cobwebs" or tiny specks floating in your vision, Dark streaks or a red film that blocks vision and Vision loss or blurred vision