Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes where high blood glucose causes damage to the blood vessels in the light-sensitive part of the retina (the back part of the eye). The retina plays an important role in vision, it records the images the eye takes in and converts them into electrical signals sent to the brain. The brain then interprets the electrical signals, so you understand what you’re seeing. Diabetes is a major cause of retinopathy. More than 80% of people who have had diabetes 20 years or longer develop diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes; the likelihood of developing the condition increases with duration of disease and is higher in people with mismanaged blood glucose levels. Retinopathy means “diseases of the retina.” It is an broad term describing several conditions. The most common are:
Damage to the retina can occur without symptoms and can eventually cause vision problems that can not be corrected by eyeglasses or contact lenses. That’s why it’s critical for people with diabetes to get regular eye exams by an eye doctor.
Treatment depends on the type of retinopathy you have. Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar can prevent eye problems. The appearance of diabetic retinopathy is associated with the rapid increase of a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the retina. VEGF stimulates the production of new blood vessels in the retina to bring more oxygen to the tissue but because blood circulation is prevented due to diabetes. Blood vessel leakage from diabetic retinopathy can cause fluid to accumulate in the center if the retina, which is the most sensitive part of the retina that is responsible for vision. If macular edema is present, or complications have progressed to proliferative retinopathy the following treatment is most commonly used are:
Cataracts - A condition in which the eye’s lens becomes cloudy and blocks light.
Complication - A disease or health condition brought on by another disease or health condition.
Glaucoma - An excess of pressure in the eye, which causes damage to the retina and optic nerve.
Macula - A part of the retina that controls fine detail perception.
Non-proliferative retinopathy - The early stages of retinopathy where the blood vessels at the back of the eye swell up and form pouches.
Proliferative retinopathy - The later, more dangerous stage of retinopathy, in which blood vessels are so damaged that they shut off, and new, weaker blood vessels grow in the retina.
Retina - The back part of the eye, which is responsible for changing images the eye sees into electrical signals that are sent to the brain.
Retinopathy - Damage to the retina.
Vitreous fluid - The fluid in the eye’s middle.
Vitrectomy - A surgical procedure in which cloudy fluid and scar tissue is removed from inside the eye.
The Hormone Health Network is the public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society dedicated to helping both patients and doctors find information on the prevention, treatment and cure of hormone-related conditions.
All Network materials, including the content on this site, are reviewed by experts in the field of endocrinology to ensure the most balanced, accurate, and relevant information available. The information on this site and Network publications do not replace the advice of a trained healthcare provider.
Paid advertisements appear on the Hormone Health Network. Advertising participation does not influence editorial decisions or content.