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What is diabetic retinopathy?

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Quick Answer

Diabetic retinopathy is a damaged retina in the eye caused by weak blood vessels as a result of diabetes, explains the American Optometric Association. High blood sugar levels that occur due to diabetes damage blood vessels. Over time, this damage spreads to all parts of the body, including the eyes.

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Full Answer

In diabetic retinopathy, the damaged blood vessels leading to the retina start to leak blood and swell, states the American Optometric Association. This condition can eventually lead to blindness. Signs and symptoms include cloudy vision, blurred vision, floaters in the field of vision, dark spots and poor night vision. The fluids and blood that leak from the blood vessels accumulate in the lens, causing swelling and inhibiting the ability of the eye to focus.

Patients with diabetic retinopathy can treat this condition by managing their blood sugar levels, exercising regularly and keeping to a healthy diet, advises the American Optometric Association. Diabetics also need to remember to take their prescribed medication. Those who smoke need to quit and avoid alcohol as much as possible. Because earliest stages of diabetic retinopathy have no detectable visual symptoms, diabetics need to have their vision tested regularly with a dilated eye examine to catch this condition while it is still treatable.

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