Diabetic retinopathy is one condition that results as a complication of having diabetes. With this problem, the retina becomes damaged due to the high blood sugar and can end in blindness for patients that have been diagnosed as being chronically diabetic. The prevalence rate of diabetic retinopathy is very high, with estimates stating that four out of every five patients that have had the disease for ten years or more will have the eye problem. However, studies of the issue have led physicians to believe that it is largely preventable, with 90% of the instances being possibly stopped if detected in time.
Like nephropathy, diabetic retinopathy does not have any symptoms that appear to alert the patient that they might have a problem. For this reason, it is important for a diabetes patient to have the ocular function checked at regular intervals to catch the complication when it starts. The first sign that a person may observe is light bleeding in the eye that only leaves a small amount of blood and usually disappears within a few hours. After a small amount of time, frequently less than a few weeks, a heavier bleeding will occur and the vision will become blurred. At this point, the function of the eye will be heavily impaired and it may take months or years to clear.
The timing of treatment is critical to reversing the problems caused by the retinopathy. If it is detected before the retina is damaged, the vast majority of patients will return to full ocular function. The main procedure that is used is called laser photocoagulation and works by cauterizing damaged blood vessels. For patients that have blood in the eye, a vitrectomy may be used. With this procedure, the diabetic retinopathy is fixed by changing the bloody vitreous with a solution of saline.