There are 20.8 million people in the United States who have Diabetes–it is the leading cause of vision loss in working-age Americans. High blood-sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps to send images to the brain. The damage to retinal vessels is referred to as diabetic retinopathy.
There are two types of diabetic retinopathy: nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). NPDR, commonly known as background retinopathy, is an early stage of diabetic retinopathy. Tiny blood vessels within the retina leak blood or fluid. The leaking fluid causes the retina to swell and can decrease blood flow to the retina. PDR is present when abnormal new vessels (neovascularization) begin growing on the surface of the retina or optic nerve. The main cause of PDR is widespread closure of retinal blood vessels, preventing adequate blood flow. Unfortunately, the new, abnormal blood vessels do not resupply the retina with normal blood flow and can cause bleeding and scarring.
The best treatment of diabetic retinopathy is to prevent the development of retinopathy as much as possible. Strict control of your blood sugar will significantly reduce the long-term risk of vision loss from diabetic retinopathy. If high blood pressure and kidney problems are present, they need to be treated.