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What Are the Warning Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy?

June 3, 2022

As far as serious, chronic health conditions go, diabetes is one of the most manageable when it’s detected early. The same goes for diabetic retinopathy. With early detection and ongoing monitoring, you can protect your vision from its damaging effects. Read on as an Arvada, CO optometrist discusses diabetic retinopathy, warning signs to watch for, and the importance of getting your eyes checked on a regular basis.  

Diabetes and Your Eyes

The high blood sugar levels brought on by diabetes can damage the structures that make up your eyes in the same way diabetes destroys cells and tissues throughout the body. The blood vessels and tissues contained in the eyes are particularly vulnerable to diabetes’ effects. Damage to these structures deprives your retina of needed oxygen and nutrients, which can cause vision loss.

When sugar levels run high, blockages can form in the blood vessels that lead to the retina. Likewise, the tissues surrounding the eyes can become inflamed. Both of these effects obstruct blood flow to the retina. Considering how the retina is the part of the eye that works with the brain to create images, any damage to the retina can compromise your vision over time. 

How Does Diabetic Retinopathy Develop?

Diabetic retinopathy takes shape when the effects of diabetes start to cause damage to the tissues and blood vessels surrounding the retina. This is a two-stage process:

  • Stage 1 – Nonproliferative Retinopathy (early stage)
    • Blood vessels in the eyes start to swell and leak
    • Can cause mild vision loss
  • Stage 2 – Proliferative Retinopathy (advanced stage)
    • Abnormal, new blood vessels start to grow as other blood vessels die-off
    • The new blood vessels bleed into the eye’s interior gel, which can cause severe vision loss 

Also, when blood sugar levels run high for extended periods, fluid build-up changes the shape of the eye’s lens. This, too, can cause vision changes. 

Early Warning Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy

The effects of diabetes on the eyes develop gradually, so early warning signs of diabetic retinopathy can be subtle and hard to notice. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Wavy vision
  • Color Blindness
  • Poor night vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Dark spots or dark strings in your visual field
  • Flashing lights
  • Alternating between clear vision and blurry vision
  • Dark areas in your visual field

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

Early detection and treatment offer the best chance of managing the effects of diabetes and preserving your vision. Getting a comprehensive eye exam will enable your optometrist to detect any swelling or damage to the blood vessels in your eyes. He or she will then devise a treatment plan that addresses any current symptoms you’re experiencing as well as the types of interventions that will be used to manage the effects of diabetic retinopathy.

If you have more questions or wish to schedule a consultation, feel free to call our Arvada, CO optometry office today.