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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is very common, especially among Latinos. This disease can cause problems in many areas of the body, including the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy refers to damage of the small blood vessels of the retina, which is crucial for vision. The swelling and bleeding that result can lead to vision loss. Symptoms may include blurry vision or the appearance of spots or "floaters."

If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes to your vision. Over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. Dilated eye examinations are highly recommended for all diabetics once a year.

What causes diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness not only in the United States, but also in the world. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive nerve tissue at the back of the eye.

A healthy retina is necessary for good vision. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. This is called macular edema because it usually happens in the central part of the retina called the macula. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, which can cause severe damage to the retina and lead to bleeding inside the eye.

How is diabetic retinopathy treated?

Laser treatment can help but will not cure the disease. The goal of laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to prevent total vision loss, not to improve vision. Sometimes an operation, called vitrectomy, is necessary to remove blood from the eye. To help prevent diabetic retinopathy from getting worse, people with diabetes should control their blood sugar (glucose) level, blood pressure, and cholesterol with the help of their primary care physician.

Visit our patient education library to learn more about diabetic retinopathy.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call our San Jose ophthalmology office at (408) 971-2020 or request an appointment using our online form.