The Early Warning Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy: What Every Diabetic Should Know

The Early Warning Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy: What Every Diabetic Should Know

The Early Warning Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy: What Every Diabetic Should Know

Getting diagnosed with diabetes can be a shocking—even crushing—experience. But once you’re done digesting the situation, you can research all your options and spring into action. 

Diabetes may be scary, but you can manage it well and still live a fulfilling life. It is common for people with diabetes to take measures to care for their bodies and prevent the disease from severely impacting their lives. But one thing you may not know is that diabetes can affect your eyes.


Diabetes can lead to a severe eye condition called diabetic retinopathy. The condition is common, affecting about 30% of all people with diabetes. Unfortunately, the condition's early symptoms are difficult to identify. It’s why you must monitor your condition and stay a step ahead of it.



What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?



The eye has structures that all work together to help achieve a clear and functional vision. One of these, the retina, is a collection of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. These are the cells that receive the visual images that you see and translate them into electrical impulses.

In diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels in this light-sensitive area become damaged by sugar levels. They weaken, swell, and eventually leak fluids into the eye. Sometimes, the vessels may shut down, forming new, abnormal vessels that are weak and leak fluids and blood.



Types of Diabetic Retinopathy



This condition usually manifests itself in two primary forms:



Early Diabetic Retinopathy



This is the more prevalent form of the condition. It is distinct in that it does not cause new or abnormal blood vessels to form in the retina. Instead, the blood vessels in your retina weaken, and the smaller vessels develop bulges in the walls that may leak fluids. It is clinically identified as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy or NPDR.


In some cases, this form leads to the destruction of blood vessels in the macula, resulting in macular edema. Intervention is critical to preserving vision when the edema advances and affects vision.



Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy



In this form, the retina forms new abnormal vessels after the older ones shut off. Because of this, it is also referred to as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. When the scar tissue from the new blood vessels builds up, it may lead to retinal detachment. Furthermore, some vessels can interfere with normal fluid outflow in the eye, leading to eye pressure increase and eventually glaucoma.



What Are the Early Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy?



The condition damages the light-sensitive cells in the retina, which usually causes vision changes. The changes are generally very slight initially, so you must be keen. Here are some of the changes to expect early on:


  • Blurriness.
  • Dark or black spot in your field of vision.
  • Difficulty differentiating colors.
  • Excessive number of floaters in the eye.
  • Risk Factors of the Condition
  • Being diabetic for a long time.
  • Poor blood sugar management.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Hypertension.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Being Hispanic, Black, or Native American.


For more on the early warning signs of diabetic retinopathy, visit Eye Carumba Optometry at our office in San Francisco, California. Call (415) 360-6900 to book an appointment today.

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