What is diabetic retinopathy?

Updated: Oct 08, 2021
  • Author: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Diabetic retinopathy is the principal ophthalmologic complication of DM. (See Diabetic Retinopathy.) Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States in people younger than 60 years and affects the eyes in the following different ways:

  • Background retinopathy involves retinal small vessel abnormality leading to hard exudates, hemorrhages, and microaneurysms; it does not affect acuity

  • Proliferative retinopathy involves extensive proliferation of new retinal small blood vessels; a sudden loss of vision can occur because of vitreous hemorrhage from proliferating new vessels or retinal detachment

  • Maculopathy involves edema and hard exudate or retinal ischemia; it causes a marked reduction of acuity

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