Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among American adults. Diabetes can cause the blood vessels of the retina to weaken and leak fluid into the surrounding retinal tissue. Diabetes can also cause new blood vessels to grow in the retina which then break and also lead to swelling of the surrounding retinal tissue. Diabetic retinopathy is painless and often has no early warning signs. If swelling of the macular area inside the eye occurs, it can lead to blurry vision, which may fluctuate throughout the course of the day. Broken blood vessels can also cause dark floating spots to appear in a person’s visual field. The floating spots are specks of blood from the ruptured vessel(s).
Diabetic retinopathy affects up to 80% of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more. Despite this high rate of prevalence, research indicates that it could be reduced up to 90% through regular monitoring of the eyes and appropriate treatment.