Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness for adults in the United States. Even with the best control of one's blood sugar, a diabetic can still develop retinopathy. Some patients even have retinopathy at the time that they are first diagnosed with diabetes. Background diabetic retinopathy is an early stage of this condition. This type of retinopathy is manifested by damage of the small blood vessels in the retina, usually around the center of the retina (macula).
Edema (swelling) of the macula
with yellow exudates
OCT scan showing edema
(fluid within and under the macula)
The more advanced form of diabetic retinopathy is proliferative retinopathy. Progressive ischemia (oxygen deprivation) of the diabetic retina causes the abnormal growth of blood vessels on the retinal surface (neovascularization). Though the blood vessels themselves often cause no change in vision, they can easily rupture and fill the eye with blood (vitreous hemorrhage). This is a major cause of catastrophic visual loss in a diabetic.
Abnormal growth of vessels over the optic nerve
Ruptured blood vessels with hemorrhage
Recent scientific evidence gathered through new multicenter clinical trials have now demonstrated that anti-VEGF agents, often used in macular degeneration, now have a leading role in the treatment of macular swelling secondary to diabeties, both in combination with laser and as monotherapy. We also utilize these therapeutic strategies actively in our clinical practices.
For further information, http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy.asp#