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What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease of the retina caused by diabetes that involves damage to the tiny blood vessels in the back of your eye. While the early stages of the disease may not cause symptoms, they will eventually develop is it progresses into its advanced, or proliferative, stage.

You may develop a gradual blurring of vision that can often go unnoticed. In some patients, blood vessels leak at the macula of the eye, i.e. the part of the retina responsible for central vision, causing loss of vision. A special photographic process known as fundus flourescein angiography (FFA) may be recommended by your ophthalmologist to help detect early effects of diabetic retinopathy.

In proliferative retinopathy, you may have hazy or complete loss of sight when bleeding occurs. Although you may not experience any pain, this severe form of diabetic retinopathy requires immediate medical attention.

Here are a few warning signs that you should look out for: fluctuating vision, eye floaters and spots, development of a scotoma or shadow in your field of view, blurry vision, and corneal abnormalities such as slow healing of wounds due to corneal abrasions.

However, even if you don’t have any of these symptoms but suffer from type 1 diabetes, you still need to have your eyes and vision checked regularly by an eye specialist! If you wait until you have symptoms, it is more likely that complications and severe damage to the retina will have already developed. These may be harder to treat and in severe cases result in permanent vision loss.