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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects many organs in your body including the eyes. It is important for all diabetics to have annual eye exams because adverse effects can occur in the eyes even before a patient notices any changes in their vision. If left undetected, it is possible to have permanent vision loss or even blindness due to diabetes. Diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels in the back of your eyes and this is known as diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in middle aged-patients in the United States. Having chronic uncontrolled blood sugar levels is the main risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy but additional risk factors exist such as the duration of the diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol and pregnancy. Patients who are symptomatic may notice blurry vision, floaters, central vision loss or may have a difficult time with color discrimination. As a patient with diabetes, it is recommended that you have a dilated retinal exam at least once a year. Your eye doctor will carefully evaluate the back of your eye for any abnormal blood vessels and complications from the diabetes. Sometimes retinal imaging or scans are helpful in documenting or determining the extent of damage that has occurred, and your eye care provider will decide if you need further evaluation. If you are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy there are treatment options that can prevent further vision loss however, strict management of the diabetes early on remains the best prevention from blindness.

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