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Diabetes is an endocrine gland disease characterized by inadequate metabolism of sugar. It affects the eye primarily by damaging the blood vessels of the retina. The longer a person has diabetes, particularly if medical treatment is delayed or inadequate, the greater the chance of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Background retinopathy (an early stage of diabetic retinopathy) is characterized by damaged blood vessels that leak serum or fat from the circulating blood into the retina. Vision may not be affected at this stage but leaking fluid causes swelling (edema) that damages the retinal nerve cells and, if not treated, can cause progressive loss of vision. Proliferative retinopathy is characterized by new, abnormal blood vessel growth within the retina. The new blood vessels may bleed in the retina or into the vitreous (the jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eyeball). Vision may be obscured by the floating blood, which may or may not clear spontaneously. Also, vision may be endangered by the formation of scar tissue, which causes the retina to pull away from the back of the eyeball (retinal detachment) and results in severe vision loss or complete blindness.
Signs and Symptoms
Background retinopathy (early stage of diabetic retinopathy): asymptomatic; macular edema: blurred vision, difficulty driving and doing detailed work. Proliferative retinopathy (advanced): dramatically blurred vision; inability to distinguish between light and dark in extreme cases