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If you have diabetes mellitus, your body does not use and store sugar properly. Diabetes can cause high blood-sugar levels, excessive thirst and urination. It can also cause changes in the body's blood vessels, the veins and arteries that carry blood throughout your body.
Because diabetes affects your body in these ways, it can affect vision by causing cataracts, glaucoma and, most importantly, damage to blood vessels inside the eye.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the eye. The retina is a nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to your brain.
When blood vessels in the retina are damaged, they may leak fluid or blood, and grow fragile, brush-like branches and scar tissue. This can blur or distort the images that the retina sends to the brain.
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new blindness among adults in the United States. People with untreated diabetes are said to be 25 times more at risk for blindness than the general population.
Diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina, and can cause then to leak or grow abnormally.
The longer a person has diabetes, the more the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases. About 80% of the people who have had diabetes for at least 15 years have some blood vessel damage to their retina. People with Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy at a younger age.
If you have diabetes, it's important to know that today, with improved methods of diagnosis and treatment, only a small percentage of people who develop retinopathy have serious vision problems.
If you have questions or would like further information, contact our office for an appointment with our Retinal Specialist, Dr. Lehr.