The National Eye Institute states that over 7 million Americans have diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease affiliated with diabetes in which the tiny blood vessels in the retina become damaged. 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 retinal to bulge or lift up, distorting or destroying vision. Under these circumstances, vision loss may be rapid and severe.
There are many surgical and drug treatments on the market to treat the various stages of diabetic retinopathy, but in some cases, it is given too late or does not produce an outcome desired by patients as they may still not be able to perform daily living tasks. Fortunately, low vision aids can help many people with diabetic retinopathy lead a more independent and active lifestyle so they can enjoy as high a quality of life as possible.