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Diabetic Retinopathy

Making a Diagnosis

Macular edema and diabetic retinopathy are detected during a comprehensive eye exam that includes:
  • Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
  • Dilated eye exam. Drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
  • Tonometry. An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.
Your eye care professional checks your retina for early signs of diabetic retinopathy, including:
  • Leaking blood vessels
  • Retinal swelling (macular edema)
  • Pale, fatty deposits on the retina -- signs of leaking blood vessels
  • Damaged nerve tissue
  • Any changes to the blood vessels.
If your eye care professional believes you need treatment for macular edema, he or she may suggest a fluorescein angiogram. In this test, a special dye is injected into your arm. Pictures are taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in your retina. The test allows your eye care professional to identify any leaking blood vessels and recommend treatment.

Treating Diabetic Retinopathy

During the first three stages, no diabetic retinopathy treatment is needed, unless you have macular edema. To prevent progression of diabetic retinopathy, people with diabetes should control their levels of:
For proliferative diabetic retinopathy, treatment may involve laser surgery or a vitrectomy.
(Click Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment for more information about treatment options for diabetic retinopathy.)
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Information on Diabetic Retinopathy

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