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Diabetic retinopathy is the general term for damage to the retina caused by diabetes. The two main types of retinopathy are nonproliferative, and proliferative.
This condition occurs when tiny vessels in the eyes become blocked, causing capillaries in the back of the eye to balloon. This can lead to vision changes, such as blurred vision.
This more severe type of retinopathy occurs as the nonproliferative form progresses. Eye blood vessels become completely blocked, leading to new blood vessel formation. The new eye blood vessels can leak blood and cause scar tissue to form, both of which damage vision. If scar tissue is severe, it can lead to a detached retina.
The macula is where high-acuity vision—which is the sharpest part of vision—occurs in the eye. Excess fluid in this area is called macular edema. This can lead to blurry or lost vision, but proper treatment can stop, and even reverse, vision changes.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. This blocks light and dims vision. People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts than people without the disease, and they tend to develop cataracts at a younger age.
Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye. Both diabetes and advancing age make glaucoma more likely. If untreated, glaucoma can pinch eye blood vessels and the optic nerve, causing a gradual loss of vision over time, but good treatment options do exist.
Taking steps to protect your vision is one of the most important things you can do for your health: