Diabetic Retinopathy: What Is It & Are You At Risk?

If you have diabetes and are having trouble seeing or noticing new spots in your vision, you may have an eye disease known as diabetic retinopathy.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by the leaking of blood or fluid in your eyes due to damaged blood vessels from diabetes. This condition occurs in the back layer of your eye where your vision is captured, known as your retina. If left uncontrolled, it can cause permanent vision loss!

Related: “Macular Degeneration: What Is It & Are You At Risk?”

Here's what diabetic retinopathy looks like

In advanced stages, this disease can cause swelling in your macula, which is the area in your eye responsible for capturing your central and reading vision. When this occurs, it often makes it very difficult for you to see.

Risk factors

Some risk factors for getting diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Having diabetes for a long time.
  • Poor control of your blood sugar.
  • High cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Being Black, Hispanic or Native American individuals.

Diabetic retinopathy risk factors

Management

If you have this eye disease, your eye doctor may recommend more frequent eye exams or even refer you to a retinal specialist for surgical treatment.

If you are at risk for diabetic retinopathy, make sure you schedule an appointment with your local eye care professional today.

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Omar Punjabi, MD is a retina specialist and vitreo-retinal surgeon at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat Associates (CEENTA) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He completed his fellowship training in retinal diseases and vitreo-retinal surgery at the prestigious Cole Eye Institute, Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Punjabi has published over 25 peer-reviewed articles and presented numerous scientific abstracts and text-book chapters. During fellowship he received the Best Fellow Teacher of the Year award, and was the recipient of the Heed Fellowship from the Heed Ophthalmic Foundation. He has won several academic awards and scholarships during his residency training at Northwestern University and during medical school. Prior to his residency training, he spent a year as a research fellow at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, FL and worked on the development of the spectral domain OCT. He has received several research awards including the Beem-Fisher Award in 2010, the Research Award from Northwestern University in 2010 and the National Eye Institute travel grant in 2006.

Dr. Punjabi is an active member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Retina Specialists, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and the Society of Heed Fellows.

His areas of interest include medical and surgical diseases of the retina and vitreous, including retinal detachment, age-related macular degeneration, retinal vascular diseases, diabetic retinopathy and ocular trauma.