Diabetes is the number one cause of reversible vision loss in adults, contributing to as many as 5,000 cases of legal blindness each year in the U.S. alone. Damage to the retina of the eye, known as “retinopathy,” is especially common among people with uncontrolled blood glucose levels and persons who have had diabetes for many years.

Patients can reduce their risk of retinopathy—and slow the progression of existing eye disease—by following these tips:

Nearly all patients with type 1 diabetes—and more than half of those with type 2 diabetes—experience at least some degree of retinopathy after living with the disease for more than 20 years. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels increase the risk of retinopathy and infrequent visits to the eye doctor can delay diagnosis and lead to serious complications.

Contact an ophthalmologist if any of the following symptoms develop:

  • Decreased or distorted vision
  • Blurriness
  • Fluctuations in vision quality
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Seeing spots or “floaters”
  • Shadows or blind spots

Retinopathy can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.

  • Mild to moderate cases of diabetic retinopathy often benefit from careful monitoring and control of blood glucose levels under the close supervision of a doctor
  • Laser therapy and sometimes eye injections are used to treat severe retinopathy
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