The Hidden Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
The most important thing to understand regarding the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy is that early in the progression of the disease, there may not actually be any symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. Most diabetics don’t begin experiencing serious symptoms until at least ten years after their original diabetic diagnosis. However, it’s important to get regular eye exams, since background retinopathy can be detected by an eye doctor even if you haven’t noticed changes to your vision.
The period of time before serious symptoms emerge is known as “background retinopathy.” At this stage, the disease often goes completely undetected. This stage of diabetic retinopathy is technically called “non-proliferative retinopathy,” because at this point the rapid growth of superfluous vessels in the eye has not yet begun. However, the leaking and/or swelling of minuscule blood vessels in the retina can lead to any or all of the following symptoms:
- Vision compromised by “floaters” or spots
- Vision affected by shadows, blur, or distortion
- Vision affected by seeing double
- Pain or tenderness in the eye
- Photophobia, or light sensitivity
- Difficulty focusing on objects close to the eye
- The appearance of cataracts in the eye
- Nystagmus, or involuntary eye twitching
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms as a diabetic, it is vital that you communicate quickly with your eye doctor to ensure critical and irreparable damage to your vision doesn’t occur.
Once the disease progresses past background retinopathy, it is called proliferative retinopathy. At this point, diabetic patients begin experiencing symptoms associated with the rapid growth of unnecessary blood vessels within the eye. These blood vessels compromise vision severely and may lead quickly to a detached retina.
It’s important for diabetic patients to manage both blood pressure and blood glucose levels, since both of these are correlated with the onset of the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. Ironically enough, patients who have not managed diabetes well and suddenly begin controlling their blood glucose levels much more tightly may actually see a rapid onset of the more severe symptoms of diabetic retinopathy as their body adjusts to rapid changes in blood glucose and blood pressure.
For this reason, it’s important to maintain regular contact with your physician and eye doctor and make sure you’re getting at least yearly eye exams. During periods of dietary change it may actually be necessary to have eye exams more often to keep tabs on the health of your eyes and prevent irreparable damage. What are you waiting for? Contact your eye doctor today!
Dr. Travis Zigler
Other Dry Eye articles by Dr. Zigler: 4 Tips to Stop Waking Up With Dry, Painful Eyes; Which Antidepressants Cause Dry Eye; Fish Oil for Fighting Dry Eye Inflammation; and What Not To Eat If You Have Dry Eye