Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that is caused by abnormal changes in the retina. The retina is a nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to your brain. In diabetes, the blood vessels in the retina may leak fluid or blood, 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. Today, with improved methods of diagnosis and treatment, only a small percentage of people who develop diabetic retinopathy have serious vision problems. With careful monitoring, your ophthalmologist can begin treatment before sight is affected. Laser and operative surgery are highly effective treatments for diabetic retinopathy, but your attitude and attention to medications and diet are also essential in dealing with the disease.