Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of diabetes mellitus and is one of the main causes of blindness in working-age adults around the world. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is essential for good vision.
Diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs. But over time, it can get worse and in the moderate to late stages, it can cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes, though one eye may be more severely affected.
Vision with diabetic retinopathy
There are 2 main types of diabetic retinopathy:
Besides bleeding and retinal detachment, another way that DR can affect vision is by causing leakage from blood vessels and swelling of the retina, called diabetic macular edema (DME). This tends to occur in the central part of the retina called the macula, which is important for sharp central vision. Swelling of the macula causes degeneration of the retinal cells over time, and affects central vision. DME is now the most common cause of vision loss from DR.
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy with abnormal new blood vessels, bleeding and leakage in the retina
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy causing retinal detachment
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