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Diabetic Retinopathy: What It Is and How to Treat It

Unmanaged diabetes can lead to severe complications, such as retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels in the eye become damaged. It can lead to vision problems and even blindness.

The following are the two main types of diabetic retinopathy:

  • Non-proliferative retinopathy is the more common type. It is also known as early diabetic retinopathy. Patients with this type of diabetic retinopathy may develop bulges in the small blood vessels of the retina. Larger vessels may change shape. As more blood vessels become blocked, the retina and its nerve fibers may start to swell.
  • Proliferative retinopathy, also known as advanced diabetic retinopathy, can develop if early retinopathy becomes more severe. In this stage, blood vessels close off and the retina develops abnormal blood vessels that can leak into the retina. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy can lead to hemorrhage, retinal detachment, glaucoma and vision loss.

Reversing diabetic retinopathy is not always possible, but there are some ways to stop its progression as well as treatments to help you live better with the condition. Treatments include:

  • Anti-VEGF injections to reverse the growth of blood vessels and reduce fluid buildup. This treatment can reverse diabetic retinopathy at early stages.
  • Laser eye surgery to shrink blood vessels.
  • Corticosteroids injected into the eye.
  • Vitrectomy to remove linked blood from the retina.

To prevent or slow diabetic retinopathy, it is important to see an eye doctor every year, avoid smoking and always monitor and treat your diabetes according to your doctor’s recommendations.


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