For the millions of diabetes sufferers in the US, microvascular disease can impact a patient’s vision through diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina. At first, most people do not notice any vision changes. This stage of the eye disease is known as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and may be evident only through bulges in the blood vessels of the retina known as micro-aneurisms. These blood vessels may bleed or leak fluid into the surrounding retinal tissue.
Some people also develop a condition called macular edema. This occurs when the blood vessels leak fluid and lipids onto the macula, the part of the retina that allows us see details. The fluid makes the macula swell and blurs vision.
Neovascularization is another complication of diabetic retinopathy and can be more threatening to one's vision. In these cases, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These new blood vessels may then bleed and leak fluid, thereby causing the retina to bulge or lift up, distorting or destroying vision. Under these circumstances, vision loss may be rapid and severe.
There are many treatments for the various stages of diabetic retinopathy, but to date, it remains a progressive eye disease.
Low Vision Aids can complement good diabetic health care as soon as vision loss occurs.