Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage from diabetes to blood vessels of the retina. The retina is the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye. It changes light and images that enter the eye into nerve signals, which are sent to the brain.
Diabetic retinopathy is a main cause of blindness in Americans 20 to 74 years old. People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk of this condition.
Diabetes - retinal conditions
There are two stages of diabetic retinopathy:
- Nonproliferative develops first
- Proliferative is more advanced and severe, and is less common
The chance of getting retinopathy and having a more severe form is higher when:
- You have had diabetes for a long time
- Your blood sugar (glucose) has been poorly controlled
Some types of exercise can make diabetic retinopathy worse. If you have retinopathy, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Other eye problems that can develop in persons with diabetes include:
- Cataract -- cloudiness of the eye lens
- Glaucoma -- increased pressure in the eye that can lead to blindness
- Macular edema -- blurry vision due to fluid leaking into the area of the retina that provides sharp central vision
- Retinal detachment -- scarring that may cause part of the retina to pull away from the back of your eyeball
High blood sugar or changes in blood sugar level often cause blurred vision. This is because the lens in the middle of the eye cannot change shape when there is too much sugar and water in the lens. This is not the same problem as diabetic retinopathy.