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Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that damages the retina of the eyes. As the name implies, it is associated with long-term diabetes. The retina, the tissue layer found at the back of the inner eye, is responsible for transforming the images and light that enter the eyes to nerve signals transmitted to the brain.

Who are at Risk?

Here are some groups of people who have higher risks of developing diabetic retinopathy:

•    People with diabetes. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at risk. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the chance that you will have diabetic retinopathy. Studies show that 40% to 45% of diabetic Americans suffer from this condition. Thus, if you have diabetes, you need to get annual comprehensive dilated eye exams.

•    Pregnant women. Since pregnant women are prone to suffer from gestational diabetes, they are likewise prone to having this eye disease. This makes a comprehensive dilated eye exam a must for those who are pregnant.

Should You Seek Medical Help?

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of diabetic retinopathy or if you fall under any of the following situations, it is best to seek professional medical help:

•    Poor vision when the light is dim.
•    Have blind spots.
•    Have double vision.
•    Hazy or blurred vision.
•    Pain in the eyes.
•    Have headaches.
•    See floaters.
•    See shadows.
•    Poor peripheral vision.
•    Children older than 10 suffering from diabetes for three years or more.
•    Type 2 diabetics should see an eye doctor upon diagnosis.
•    Type 1 diabetics should see an eye doctor within five years from diagnosis.

What to Expect?

If you are suffering from diabetic retinopathy, there are treatments you can undergo to reduce vision loss. Note, however, that these cannot cure the eye condition nor reverse the damages incurred. You need close monitoring by your optometrist since you are at risk of bleeding. You can help improve your condition by maintaining healthy levels of your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Possible Complications

If you are already suffering from diabetic retinopathy, you need to be on the lookout for the following eye conditions that may develop:

•    Cataracts. This eye condition is characterized by cloudy lens of the eyes that blurs your vision.

•    Glaucoma. The eye experiences increased pressure that can cause blindness.

•    Macular Oedema. This eye problem causes blurred vision due to fluid leak in the area of the retina responsible for providing sharp vision straight in front of you.

•    Retinal Detachment.  With this eye condition, the retina is pulled away from the back of the eyeball possibly due to scarring.

Precautions

Here are some things to bear in mind if you are affected with diabetic retinopathy, especially if you already have poor vision:

•    Do not miss any of your scheduled eye examination appointments. If have been told to return every three months make sure you do so.

•    Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program or planning to get pregnant. Avoid high impact exercises that can further strain the weakened blood vessels in your eyes.

•    Make your home safe so you can avoid bumping or falling.

•    Organize your home such that the things you need are within your reach.

•    If you have difficulty finding the correct medicines to take, ask someone to help you.