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Diabetes affects the blood vessels throughout the body, particularly in the kidney and in the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is the name we give to diabetes’ adverse affects on the blood vessels in the eye. In the United States, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults. Risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases over time. An adult who has had diabetes for 15 years or longer stands an 80 percent chance of experiencing damage to retinal blood vessels.
The retina, the multiple layers of tissue located at the back of the eye, detects visual stimuli and transmits signals to the brain. When diabetes affects the ocular blood vessels, they may develop leaks or contribute to the formation of scar tissue; these problems reduce the retina’s ability to detect and transmit images.
There are two main types of diabetic retinopathy: background (BDR) and proliferative (PDR). Treatment is available for both of these problems.
When diabetes results in new blood vessels in the retina that leak blood, a laser procedure may be used to painlessly destroy the new growth and seal the blood vessels.