Diabetic Retinopathy

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Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that can often result in blindness. It is estimated that in 2002, diabetic retinopathy accounted for about 5% of world blindness, or almost 5 million blind. As the incidence of diabetes gradually increases, there is the possibility that more individuals will suffer from eye complications, which if not properly managed, may lead to permanent eye damage.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Diabetic Translation presented some alarming statistics:

Disease Progression

Diabetic retinopathy is composed of a characteristic group of lesions found in the retina of individuals having had diabetes mellitus for several years. The abnormalities that characterize diabetic retinopathy occur in predictable progression with minor variations in the order of their appearance. Diabetic retinopathy is considered to be the result of vascular changes in the retinal circulation.

In the early stages vascular occlusion and dilations occur. It progresses into a proliferative retinopathy with the growth of new blood vessels. Macular edema (the thickening of the central part of the retina) can significantly decrease visual acuity.  [Diabetic Retinopathy, WHO, 2013 http://www.who.int/blindness/causes/priority/en/index6.html]

Current Treatments and Issues

Treatment largely depends on the stage of the disease with the goal of trying to stop or slow the progression.  During the early stages of non-proliferative retinopathy, treatment other than routine exams and monitoring may not be required.  As the disease progresses, there are several treatment options:


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