Understanding the condition
Diabetic retinopathy has a number of stages:
The early or ‘non-proliferative stages are characterised by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, but your vision tends not to be affected.
Once the disease reaches the more advanced ‘proliferative’ stage, abnormal and fragile blood vessels begin to grow on the retina.
In this problem, the abnormal blood vessels leak fluid into the macula – the centre of the retina – causing blurred vision.
Sometimes, the abnormal blood vessels can bleed into the vitreous ‘gel’ inside the eye. This is known as a vitreous haemorrhage and can also cause blurred vision.
Vision lost to diabetic retinopathy is sometimes irreversible. However, early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by 95%.
Because the condition often lacks early symptoms, people with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
People already diagnosed with the condition may need eye exams more frequently.
Women with diabetes who become pregnant should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible as eye disease can get suddenly worse in pregnancy. Additional exams during pregnancy may be needed.