What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Learn how high blood sugar can impact the health of your eyes.
Frank Siringo, M.D., O.D., chief of vitreoretinal diseases and surgery at Omni Eye Specialists in Denver, explains how elevated blood-sugar levels can affect the eyes and contribute to a condition called diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a problem whereby patients with diabetes, who's usually had diabetes for at least 10 years, they start to develop problems with the blood vessels in the retina. If their hemoglobin A1C, which is sort of a measure of the 90 day average of your blood sugar, if that percentage is chronically over 7, and much worse if it's over 9 or 10 for a long period of time, the blood vessels in the retina can start to get damaged and they will actually start leaking fluid and blood into the retina. This prevents the retina from getting enough oxygen that it needs. And not only that, but blood will start to spill into the retina. Some of those patients will develop diabetic macular edema, which is swelling of the central retina.
You can have diabetic retinopathy and have no vision loss whatsoever, if it's in the early stages and you don't have DME. In fact, most of the people that we see are kind of early stage without DME. Once they develop DME, now all of a sudden they need treatment because their vision has become blurry.