Diabetic patients are more likely to suffer early development of eye problems such as glaucoma and cataract, but this disease’s effect on the retina is the main threat to vision. This is diabetic retinopathy, which develops over time because diabetes (high blood sugar) damages the vascular network of the retina. The earliest phase of the disease, background diabetic retinopathy, occurs when the arteries in the retina become weak, and leak, forming small dot haemorrhages. These leaking vessels often lead to oedema (swelling) of the retina which, if peripheral, the patient will be unaware of. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the next stage of diabetic retinopathy, which develops when circulation problems cause areas of the retina to become oxygen-deprived (ischemic). New, fragile, vessels form as the circulatory system attempts to maintain normal oxygen levels within the retina, including, crucially, the central retina.This neovascularization leads to increased haemorrhages and loss of vision. The final phase is diabetic maculopathy which causes serious visual loss. All these changes are largely avoidable with good diabetic control.
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