Diabetic Retinopathy

specialty eye care

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that weakens the blood vessels that supply nourishment to the retina. There are two forms of diabetic retinopathy:

  • The proliferative form is characterized by the proliferation (increase) of abnormal blood vessels which often bleed and cause scar tissue.
  • The non-proliferative from is characterized by leaking from the damaged areas of normal blood vessels. The leaking causes swelling and loss of vision.

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

Most of the time, there are no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy until it starts to change your vision. When this happens, diabetic retinopathy is already severe. In its advanced stages, the disease can cause blurred or cloudy vision, floaters, blind spots and, eventually, blindness. This damage is irreversible.

Who gets diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of vision loss in adults between ages 20 and 74. The prevalence of the disease varies between those with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 diabetes.

Among people who have type 1 diabetes:

  • After 5 years, about 25% have retinopathy.
  • After 10 years, 60% have retinopathy.
  • After 15 years, 98% have retinopathy. Of those, 26% have the proliferative form of the disease.
  • After 20 years, almost all have retinopathy. More than half (53%) have the proliferative form.

Among people who have type 2 diabetes:

  • At diagnosis, about 21% have retinopathy. People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to have had the disease for several years before they are actually diagnosed. As a result, the time between diagnosis of diabetes and initial development of retinopathy may be shorter in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • After 15 years, about 85% of those taking insulin and 60% of those not taking insulin have retinopathy. About 20% of those taking insulin and 4% of those not taking insulin have the proliferative form.
  • After 20 years, more than 60% have retinopathy. About 20% of people with type 2 diabetes who take insulin injections and 5% of those who do not take insulin have the proliferative form by this time.

How is diabetic retinopathy diagnosed?

An eye exam by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist or optometrist) is the only way to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. Having an eye exam every year can help diagnose retinopathy before it changes your vision. If you are at low risk for vision problems, your doctor may consider follow-up exams every year. On your own, you may not notice symptoms until the disease becomes severe.

Contact us today to schedule your eye exam in Arkansas.