Eye Condition That Affects the Retina

Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the retina (back part of your eye). Diabetes can also increase your risk of having additional eye issues, such as glaucoma and cataracts.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can have diabetic retinopathy. It is the primary cause of decreased vision or blindness in Americans between the ages of 20 and 74. Patients who have had diabetes for a long time, have poorly controlled blood sugar or high blood pressure or cholesterol have a higher risk of more severe diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

People with diabetes need regular eye exams because symptoms don’t usually occur until after the damage to your eyes is severe. Bleeding in the eye is typically the first symptom to occur from retina damage.

Additional diabetic retinopathy symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Slow vision loss over time
  • Floaters in vision
  • Shadows or missing areas of vision
  • Trouble seeing at night

If you have diabetes, regular eye visits are an important part of your care plan. At Penn State Health Eye Center, our expert doctors will examine your eyes, carefully noting any changes. We have the most advanced retinal imaging equipment to evaluate the extent of diabetic retinopathy, as well as to measure the impact of our treatments. Eye tests include:

  • Tonometry: measures the fluid pressure inside your eyes
  • Slit-lamp exam: checks the structures inside your eyes
  • Fluorescein angiography: checks and photographs your retinas; examines vascular damage
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT): measures the swelling of the retina

If you have early signs of diabetic retinopathy, your eye doctor might see blocked blood vessels, larger-than-normal blood vessels or small amounts of bleeding into the retina. Advanced diabetic retinopathy will show more significant blood vessels, as well as small retina scarring.

If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to reduced vision and blindness, meaning early detection is key to reducing future vision loss. Most patients do well with ongoing diabetic retinopathy treatment.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Expert Eye Care

At Penn State Health Eye Center, our patients receive specialized care by our highly trained eye experts. Our team specializes in treating diabetic retinopathy and offers the latest diagnostic testing. Our surgeons are the best in central Pennsylvania, offering our patients more surgical experience and a wide range of treatment options.

Prevention is the Best Treatment

The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is prevention. Managing your diabetes through a nutritious diet, regular exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits can help slow diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions.

Comprehensive Advanced Treatment Options

If you have early diabetic retinopathy, treatment might not be necessary, but regular eye screening is important. If you develop new blood vessels in your retina or develop macular edema, treatment is needed. At Penn State Health Eye Center, our team typically treats advanced diabetic retinopathy with one of the following surgical options:

  • Photocoagulation: uses a laser to seal or destroy abnormal blood vessels in the retina
  • Intraocular medications: prevent leakage and growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina
  • Vitrectomy: removes vitreous gel from your eye

Leading-Edge Clinical Trials

Penn State Health Eye Center conducts leading-edge clinical trials to study the impact that diabetic retinopathy has on patients. Our experts are always learning more about diabetic retinopathy to help create earlier screening tools and additional innovative treatment options. Click here to learn more about clinical trials.

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