Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is retinopathy (damage to the retina) caused by complications of diabetes mellitus, which can eventually lead to blindness. It is an ocular manifestation of systemic disease which affects up to 80% of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more. Despite these intimidating statistics, research indicates that at least 90% of these new cases could be reduced if there was proper and vigilant treatment and monitoring of the eyes.

Diabetic retinopathy is the result of microvascular retinal changes. Hyperglycemia-induced pericyte death and thickening of the basement membrane lead to incompetence of the vascular walls. These damages change the formation of the blood-retinal barrier and also make the retinal blood vessels become more permeable.

Small blood vessels – such as those in the eye – are especially vulnerable to poor blood sugar (blood glucose) control. An overaccumulation of glucose and/or fructose damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina. During the initial stage, called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), most people do not notice any change in their vision.

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