Millions of Americans each year face vision loss related to diabetes. In fact, according to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 26 million Americans — roughly 8.3 percent of the U.S. population — have diabetes, and more than 28 percent of diabetics age 40 or older in the U.S. have diabetic retinopathy (DR) and related diabetic eye disease.
To make matters worse, a significant number of cases of diabetes and diabetic eye disease go undetected or untreated because people fail to have routine comprehensive eye exams as recommended by their optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Most laser and non-laser treatments for diabetic eye disease depend on the severity of the eye changes and type of vision problems you have.
To better understand the treatments, you first must know how the eye is damaged when you have diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy typically is a disease of the tiny blood vessels that supply oxygen and nourishment to the retinal tissues (retinal microvasculature). This retinal microvascular damage leads to poor blood flow — which can cause localized fluid accumulation (edema) and lack of oxygen in the retina.
Research also has shown that the retinas in diabetic patients may produce abnormal amounts of vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF), which stimulate the production of abnormal blood vessels — a process called neovascularization.