In the initial stages, people with diabetic retinopathy may not notice their vision changing. Diabetics sometimes experience rapid changes in blood sugar that can temporarily cause blurry vision even when retinopathy is not present. If a person notices a few specks or spots floating in his visual field, this may mean he has developed proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the growth of abnormal new blood vessels on the retina and optic nerve. High blood sugar levels have been linked in studies to retinal blood vessel abnormalities. Blurred vision may occur when the macula--the small area at the center of the retina--swells as it fills with fluid that has leaked from retinal blood vessels. Because damage to the eye often develops slowly, early detection of diabetes and control of blood sugar through diet and medications can make a crucial difference in saving vision.
Effective diabetic retinopathy treatments include laser photocoagulation for early to moderate stages and a microsurgery called vitrectomy for repair of eyes with extensive damage. Injectable and oral medications that act on abnormal blood vessels to control diabetic retinopathy before vision loss occurs are now in development. Early detection would be key to the effectiveness of these treatments, also.
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In a quest to find the genetic factors that are fundamental to diabetic retinopathy, scientists from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) have also discovered a new method that can be employed as a template to investigate other types of diseases.