Diabetic retinopathy: A common complication of diabetes affecting the blood vessels in the retina (the thin light-sensitive membrane that covers the back of the eye). If untreated, it may lead to blindness. If diagnosed and treated promptly, blindness is usually preventable.
Diabetic retinopathy begins without any noticeable change in vision. But even then there often are extensive changes in the retina visible to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). It is therefore important for a diabetic to have an eye examination at least once (ideally twice) a year.
There are two stages of diabetic retinopathy -- nonproliferative and proliferative retinopathy:
The diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is made by a dilated retinal examination (eye exam after the eyes are dilated). This may be coupled with a fundus fluorescein angiography, a test done to assess the extent and type of changes in the retina and its blood vessels. In this test a small amount of dye is injected into a vein in the arm and pictures are taken of the eye. Usually this test is done as an outpatient procedure.
Treatment is by laser surgery, usually also on an outpatient basis. The nature of the laser treatment depends on the stage of the retinopathy:
Laser therapy can only stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy. It cannot reverse the damage already done. The progression of the retinopathy can be slowed down by careful control of the diabetes, effective reduction of high blood pressure together with regular eye exams and, if needed, prompt laser therapy.
Information about diabetic retinopathy and the cause and symptoms of this progressive eye disease. Diagnosis and types of treatment are described.
Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the eye's retina that occurs with long-term diabetes. See also: Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes
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