Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye conditions that people with diabetes may face as a complication of the disease. All these complications can cause vision loss or even blindness. People with diabetes are more likely to develop these eye conditions than those without diabetes but regular eye exams that make early detection possible can help to prevent vision loss.
Some of the conditions that can be complications of diabetes include:
Diabetic retinopathy: A leading cause of blindness in adults in American and is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people the blood vessels may swell and leak fluid and in others new, abnormal blood vessels can grow on the surface of the retina.
Nonproliferative retinopathy: The most common form of retinopathy and is when capillaries in the back of the eye expand and form pouches. This condition can move through three stages (mild, moderate, and severe), as more and more blood vessels become blocked.
Proliferative retinopathy: A more serious form of the condition that develops after several years if the retinopathy goes untreated. Blood vessels become so damaged that they close off and new blood vessels start growing in the retina. The new blood vessels can leak blood that interferes with vision, a condition called vitreous hemorrhage. These new blood vessels can also cause scar tissue to grow in the retina and when this tissue shrinks, it can distort the retina or even pull it out of place—a condition called retinal detachment.
Glaucoma: This term refers to a group of conditions, most of which include a build-up of pressure in the eye and all of which can lead to damage to the optical nerve which results in impaired vision, even blindness. People with diabetes are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma than those without diabetes. Both age and the longevity of the diabetes increase the risk factor.
Cataracts: A condition in which the eye’s lens, which is normally clear, becomes clouded. People with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts and have the condition progress faster and at a younger age.
Macular edema: A condition under which the macula (the part of the eye where focusing occurs) can fill with fluid, swell and cause blurry vision and blindness. The condition is quite serious and requires immediate attention and treatment during which the vision loss can be stopped and even sometimes reversed.