Diabetic Retinopathy


If you have type 1 or 2 diabetes, you should understand the importance of:

  • Controlling your blood glucose levels, and
  • Preventing diabetes complications, such as damage to your eyes and other organs.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that damages your retina. The retina is the nerve or light-sensitive layer that lines the back of the eye. It is the part of the eye that transforms light into images. 

Patients with diabetic retinopathy may have no symptoms or only slight visual changes at first. 

If blood sugars are too high, your blood vessels may weaken or leak blood and other liquids into the retina. If this blood leaks into the central part of the retina, it causes blurry vision. The bleeding can also cause scar tissue to form, leading to retinal detachment. Sometimes retinal detachment can be repaired with surgery, but it often leads to permanent vision loss, or blindness if left untreated.

Diabetic retinopathy can also cause swelling of the macula. The macula is the center of the retina and helps you see details. Generally speaking, by the time symptoms are detected, the diabetic retinopathy is already severe. 

The progression of retinopathy can be slowed with medicine, surgery, and laser treatment. It is also important to work with your doctor to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure within normal range. 

Your best defense against diabetic retinopathy is having an annual dilated eye exam. The earlier you find and start treating this disease, the more likely you are to prevent vision loss. 

It takes a coordinated team to treat and support patients in seeing their best, and that’s what you’ll find at Mercy. Our eye specialists work closely with primary care physicians and specialists involved in treating diabetes, to ensure you receive compassionate, coordinated care.

If your optometrist detects symptoms of diabetic retinopathy during an annual, dilated eye exam, he or she may refer you to a Mercy ophthalmologist, specially trained to help preserve your vision.  Our goal is to help you see your best, so you live a happier, more complete life.

What Can I Do to Keep My Eyes Healthy?

Dr. Francisco Garcia-Ferrer

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