What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding disease that affects the retina in people who have diabetes. It is the most common cause of vision loss in middle age people.

As a diabetic retinopathy specialist in Orange County, Dr Kawji has particular expertise in medical and surgical management of diabetic retinopathy.

Why Is Diabetic Retinopathy Dangerous?

When you have diabetes, especially if it is uncontrolled, it can damage the small blood vessels in the retina in the back of your eye. The damaged blood vessels will start leaking into the surrounding retinal tissue (“diabetic macular edema”), which will impair your reading vision. In other areas, there will be areas of bleeding into the retina.

With further damage, some blood vessels get completely destroyed, leaving parts of the retina without blood supply (“retinal ischemia”). Unfortunately, these blood vessels are lost forever and there is nothing that can bring them back.

Without treatment, this will progress to the next stage, called “proliferative diabetic retinopathy.” In this stage, abnormal blood vessels start to grow on the surface of the retina along with scar tissue. The blood vessels can cause bleeding inside the eye (“vitreous hemorrhage”). The scar tissue may get “glued” to the retina and pull it off, causing retinal detachment and vision loss. This is why it is critical to visit Dr Kawji, an Orange County ophthalmologist, for early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy in Orange County.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

In the beginning, there will be no symptoms whatsoever and the vision will be excellent. Often times, patients do not seek medical attention until the center of their vision is affected (by leaking and bleeding vessels). They will notice distortion and blurriness in their vision, especially their reading vision.

Later on when bleeding occurs, patients may report floaters and cobwebs, and even significant loss of vision when the blood fills the entire eye.

If retinal detachment develops, patients may or may not notice a shadow or a veil in their field of vision.

When to Get Examined?

In general, once you are diagnosed with diabetes, you need to get a baseline examination of your retina to detect any diabetic retinopathy that might already be present at the time of diagnosis. If no retinopathy exists, then it is recommended to get an annual exam with your ophthalmologist or retina specialist.