What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Picture of view with normal vision  Picture of view with diabetic retinopathy

 Normal Vision                               Diabetic Retinopathy

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, small blood vessels weaken and leak fluid or tiny amounts of blood, which distort the retina. At this stage, the person may have normal vision or may experience blurred or changing vision. Although 25 per cent of people with diabetes have some degree of retinopathy, most cases do not progress to more severe problems.

In a more advanced stage, blood vessels in the retina are blocked or closed completely, and areas of the retina die. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy affects about five per cent of people with diabetes and occurs when new, abnormal blood vessels grow to replace the old ones. These new vessels are fragile and often rupture and bleed into the eye, blocking vision. Scar tissue forms, shrinks, and tears the retina, causing bleeding or detachment from the back of the eye. This can result in severe visual loss or blindness. Fortunately, this occurs only in a small minority of people with diabetes.

The chances of having some form of diabetic retinopathy increase the longer a person has had diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is present in 90 per cent of those who have had diabetes for more than 20 years.

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