Diabetic retinopathy is a major cause of blindness in people with diabetes. As a diabetes complication, it first starts with decreased vision and then gradually progresses into total vision loss. It is a diabetic eye problem which in the initial stages does not show up any specific symptoms.
Diabetes and eyes – Diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a major diabetes complication that is caused due to combined damage of blood vessels and nerves of the retina. It is a progressive condition that leads to vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy first starts as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy and progresses to proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In the first stage of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the arteries supplying blood to the retina are narrowed. Along with this, there is also nerve damage that leads to reduced dilation of the blood vessels.
As diabetic retinopathy stages progress, there is occurrence of microaneurysms and neovascularization. These events can progress to leakage of blood vessels and retinal hemorrhages.
However, in the preliminary diabetic retinopathy stages, symptoms do not show up. It is only in the later stages that diabetic retinopathy symptoms show up. In fact, in the non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy stage, there is no vision change. In this stage, symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are only clinical and are seen in a fundoscopy examination.
Symptoms of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy
- Microaneurysm (microaneurysms seen in fundus photographs
- Dot and blot hemorrhages seen along with microaneurysms. This is indicative of moderate non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy
- Cotton wool spots seen in the retina in a fundus photograph. This is indicative of nerve damage.
- Venous beading with unusual venous dilation in the veins of the retina
With prolonged diabetes side effects, non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy leads to proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, there is formation of new and unstable blood vessels that tend to leak fluids into the retina and surrounding areas. This condition can even progress into retinal detachment. In this stage, diabetic retinopathy symptoms surface.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy – Proliferative diabetic retinopathy
- Vision changes with decreased visual acuity
- Pain in the eyes
- Dark spots in the field of vision
- Blurred vision
- Inability to see colors with fading colors
- Double vision