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Retinopathy: Diabetes and Eyesight

Diabetes is a brutal disease that causes damage to nearly every part of the body including the eyes. There are many factors that play a part in how badly your eyes can be damaged but the main ones include how long you have diabetes, how well it’s controlled and how quickly you receive treatment for the eye problem.

Because there are often complications related to diabetes and eyesight, it is imperative that you receive regular eye exams and schedule an appointment at the first hint of trouble. Following is a description of retinopathy which is the main disorder associated with diabetes and eyesight.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Probably the most serious complication of diabetes and eyesight is retinopathy. It occurs because diabetes affects the blood vessels in your eyes and causes them to leak or become blocked. When this happens, it can damage your macula and retina and cause vision problems that will most likely be permanent. You should have regular retinal screening tests to keep an eye out for this disorder. There are three main types of retinopathy that range from mild to severe.

Background Retinopathy

This is the most common and usually least severe type of retinopathy. The blood vessels in your eye are mildly damaged and may bulge a little or hemorrhage. Unless the macula in your eyes are damaged, you may not even know that you have this even though many people who have been diabetic for a long period of time have at least a mild form of it. It’s important to keep an eye out for this though because it can worsen into more damaging types of retinopathy.


With this form of retinopathy, your macula, and therefore your vision, is damaged. Because the macula affect central vision, you will notice blurriness or even blind spots directly where you are looking but your peripheral vision won’t be affected. Though vision can’t be restored, laser surgery may help prevent or slow down further loss of vision.

Proliferative Retinopathy

This is the most damaging form of retinopathy and is caused when the blood vessels are so damaged that the eye is starved for oxygen. As a means of trying to heal itself, your eye will begin to grow new vessels but the problem is that these vessels are weak and grow in the wrong places. They may grow over the retina and if they start to bleed, light can’t get through to the retina and vision is obscured.

Your body may reabsorb the blood and your vision may improve as it does, but the bleeding may also cause scar tissue that can cause your retina to tear and detach. If this happens, you can completely lose your eye sight.

There are other disorders associated with diabetes and eyesight such as cataracts but retinopathy is the most common. Because of the seriousness and the progressiveness of this disorder, it is absolutely imperative that if you are diabetic, you monitor your eye health very closely. Keep regular appointments with your optometrist and if you notice changes in your vision, seek immediate treatment.