A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

What you should know about diabetic retinopathy and how to prevent its devastating effects


By Dr. Joseph Brown
University of Kentucky

Diabetes is a disease so prevalent in the United States that it is considered to be an epidemic.

(NKyTribune file)

In the state of Kentucky, according to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 13.6% of the adult population has been diagnosed with diabetes, with another 33.8% who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Diabetes can result in devastating financial and physical consequences for families and those who have it.

With a diabetes diagnosis, you must be aware of the risk factors you face. One of these risk factors is that you can develop a series of eye conditions called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy causes vision loss and blindness in those who have diabetes by causing issues with the blood vessels connected to the retina.

If you have diabetes, it is important to get an eye exam once a year, as you may not notice any symptoms in the early stages. Catching this condition early on will be the best course of action in preventing vision loss.

What are the symptoms?

• Changes in vision such as trouble reading or blurred vision
• Fluctuating vision
• Spots or dark streaks floating in your vision
• Dark or empty areas in your vision
• Eye pain or redness
• Difficulty seeing in the dark

What can I do to prevent diabetic retinopathy?

The best course of action for preventing diabetic retinopathy is managing your diabetes with a healthy diet, regular exercise and following your doctor’s instructions with medications. You should also ensure you get a regular eye screening and monitor your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure at all times.

What kind of treatment is available?

If caught early, your doctor will likely recommend more regular eye exams. However, in the later stages, there are a variety of treatments available to stop your vision from worsening, such as injections, laser treatment or eye surgery. Overall, it is important to see your doctor with any concerns you may have to find the right course of action for you.

Dr. Joseph Brown, D.O. is an assistant professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.


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