Diabetic Retinopathy

Simulation photograph: normal vision Simulation photograph: diabetic retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of visual loss in people in the middle, most-productive years of life. As a result of a world-wide increase in obesity, diabetes and it complications have reached epidemic proportions.

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid, while in others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in vision loss or blindness.

The consequences of these retinal vascular changes for vision are most severe. In the non-proliferative form of diabetic retinopathy, the abnormal leakiness from the retinal vessels leads to macular edema or swelling, and this produces gradual loss of visual acuity.

Diabetic retinopathy cannot be completely avoided, but the risk can be greatly reduced. Better control of blood sugar level slows the onset and progression of retinopathy and lessens the need for laser surgery for severe retinopathy.

What eye problems are often associated with diabetes?

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as complications. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. Diabetic eye disease often can be treated before vision loss occurs. All people with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.

Diabetic eye diseases include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy - most common eye disease in persons with diabetes
  • Cataract - a clouding or opaque area develops over the lens of the eye - an area that is normally transparent. As this thickening occurs, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina - the light sensitive tissue lining located in the back of the eye. Persons with diabetes are twice as likely to develop a cataract.
  • Glaucoma - increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. People with diabetes are also twice as likely as other adults to develop glaucoma.

Why choose Weill Cornell Eye Associates?


Weill Cornell Eye Associates includes several retina specialists with internationally-recognized expertise in the management of all forms of diabetic retinopathy by laser treatment and vitreoretinal surgery. In addition, the use of wide-field angiography by Optos camera evaluation and Spectral Domain OCT permits the accurate detection and treatment of even the most subtle cases of retinopathy.


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