Diabetic retinopathy means changes in the retina secondary to diabetes. Diabetes causes problems with blood vessels, partly due to sugar making some of the layers of blood vessels more brittle. Microvasculopathy, or blood vessel disease in small blood vessels, occurs in the retina, the kidneys and in the feet.
Diabetic retinopathy is a significant cause of visual loss and occurs over time. Diabetic retinopathy is more common the higher the HbA1c is (the longer term sugar control index), the length of time of diabetes, how high the blood pressure is, and how high the cholesterol is. Diabetic retinopathy can get worse in pregnancy.
There are a lot of treatment strategies for diabetic retinopathy, but they are much better instigated as a prophylactic rather than waiting for the vision to decline. Vision loss from diabetic retinopathy is hard to recover from – much better to prevent it.
The treatment options for diabetic retinopathy include laser, injections of steroids and anti-vascular endothelial growth factors, and sometimes surgery.