Diabetic retinopathy involves damage to the eye’s retina due to high blood sugar levels in the body. It is a common complication of diabetes, affecting millions of people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy affects the blood vessels in the retina of the eye. Over time, high blood sugar levels, which can occur with diabetes, may damage the retina’s blood vessels.
This damage may cause the blood vessels to leak fluid, which can cause swelling to occur in the eye. The damage may also prevent blood and nutrients from getting to the retina. In later stages of the disease, new, abnormal vessels may form. The changes to the retina’s blood vessels can lead to vision loss.
In this article, we will discuss the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy, its causes and risk factors, and treatment options.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. The exact prevalence varies based on the source. Some estimates suggest that
A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis of international databases found that
The rates for diabetic retinopathy may also vary depending on how long a person has had diabetes. The longer a person has diabetes, the
Some evidence suggests that worldwide, the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy is 77.3% in people with type 1 diabetes and 25.1% in people with type 2 diabetes. In the United States, diabetic retinopathy affects about 8 million people.
Continued high blood sugar levels
Doctors have also identified additional risk factors, such as:
- diabetes duration, as the longer a person has diabetes, the
- uncontrolled blood sugar levels
- high cholesterol levels
- high blood pressure
- kidney disease
Diabetic retinopathy is the
Usually, diabetic retinopathy affects. When symptoms develop, they may include:
- blurred vision
- difficulty reading
- trouble seeing, which comes and goes
- black or gray floaters in the field of vision
- dark or blank areas of vision
The eye doctor may also order an optical coherence tomography, which is a painless scan to assess retinal thickness. This test helps identify swelling in the macula. Doctors may also recommend a fluorescein angiography to view the blood vessels in the retina.
The goal of treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to slow how fast the disease progresses and prevent vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy can progress through different stages. The two types of diabetic retinopathy are known as nonproliferative and proliferative.
Click here to learn more about the differences between nonproliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
The advanced stage of the disease, called proliferative diabetic retinopathy, involves the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels. A
Treatment options may include:
- Medications: Doctors inject medications, called vascular endothelial growth inhibitors, into the eye to stop the development of new blood vessels.
- Laser therapy: To reduce swelling, a doctor can use lasers to shrink blood vessels and stop them from leaking.
- Vitrectomy: This is a form of surgery that involves removing blood and other fluid from the vitreous. The vitreous is the fluid that fills the space between the retina and the lens. Doctors may also remove scar tissue, if present, that is pulling on the retina.
According to the
- taking insulin, or other medications, as instructed by a healthcare provider
- getting regular exercise
- following a nutritionist’s recommended nutritional plan
- treating high blood pressure, which also contributes to diabetic retinopathy
- attending regular eye exams to monitor eye health and initiate treatment, if necessary
Diabetic retinopathy can develop due to complications from diabetes. High blood sugar levels may damage the retina’s blood vessels, causing them to leak and swell. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. In advanced cases, diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss.
Treatment can help slow the progression of the disease. Treatment involves managing diabetes, such as through controlling blood sugar levels and other options, such as medications and surgery.