You can start seeing dark spots in your vision if you have diabetic retinopathy, and it can lead to blindness if not treated early enough.

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Diabetic retinopathy is a serious eye complication associated with type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

If left untreated, it can lead to significant vision changes and even blindness. But when signs of diabetic retinopathy are recognized early and treated, you can slow or stop its progression.

Here’s what to know and look for so that you can avoid the worst effects of diabetic retinopathy.

Chronically high glucose levels damage the blood vessels in the eye’s retina.

When this happens, the blood vessels in the retina start to swell and leak fluid into the eye, which can result in diabetic retinopathy. These damaged blood vessels disrupt the retina’s ability to transmit a clear image of what you’re looking at through the optic nerve.

Vision changes may vary depending on how advanced your diabetic retinopathy is. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • blurred vision
  • fluctuating vision
  • seeing floating spots or dark strings
  • dark or empty areas in your field of vision
  • vision loss

If you experience any of these symptoms, even if they seem to clear up on their own, contact your eye doctor to get them checked out.

When left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to permanent eye damage and even blindness. But, when signs of diabetic retinopathy are identified in its early stages, treatments are available to slow or stop its progression. More advanced retinopathy may require treatments such as injections, laser therapy, or even eye surgery.

According to the National Eye Institute, your daily life can be impacted in many ways because of diabetic retinopathy.

With the progression of diabetic retinopathy, your risk increases for other eye issues like diabetes-related glaucoma or macular edema. Those can also impact your ability to see, and may affect your eyes differently.

The short answer is: Yes, you can lose your vision from diabetic retinopathy.

But you can improve your odds of avoiding this by actively managing your diabetes, including having an annual diabetic eye exam. These annual eye exams are important for finding any signs of diabetic retinopathy early. During this exam, your pupils will be dilated, and the inside of your eye will be examined using a special medical device.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that can lead to vision changes and blindness.

You can reduce the likelihood of diabetic retinopathy by actively managing your blood glucose levels, being on the lookout for the early signs, and getting a diabetic eye exam annually.