Diabetic retinopathy is a sight-threatening complication of diabetes. Over time, diabetes damages blood vessels in the eye, and fluid can accumulate inside the lens of the eye. If diabetic retinopathy goes undetected, and untreated, vision loss can occur and can not be reversed. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy: background, or nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR).
During the first stage of diabetic retinopathy, NPDR, there are no symptoms to the patient. The only way to detect NPDR is by a your doctor reviewing your Optomap image or completing a dilated exam. It is during the second stage, PDR, that a patient will experience blurred vision or even darkened or distorted images.
During your exam your doctor will examine your eye for various complications: leaking blood vessels, retinal swelling, fatty deposits on the retina, damaged nerve tissue, and any changes to the blood vessels.
It is important for diabetic patients to see their optometrist yearly. If your macula indicates possible swelling your doctor will order an additional test, an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), to measure the thickness of the retina and observe and monitor the swelling.
There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy but surgery and injection treatments are able to slow vision loss.
Microaneurysms - small bulges in the blood vessels which often leak fluid
Retinal hemorrhages - tiny spots of blood that leak into the retina
Vitreous hemorrhages - new blood vessels bleed into the center of the eye, the vitreous
Hard exudates - deposits of cholesterol or other fats
Macular edema - swelling or thickening of the macula caused by fluid leaking
Macular ischemia - small blood vessels close
Neovascularization - growth of new blood vessels due to original blood vessels closing.