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The only way to find out if you have diabetic retinopathy is to have an examination of the retina with drops to dilate the pupil. Your doctor can then look through the pupil with a bright light and a special magnifying lens to see the retina and any early signs of diabetic retinopathy. As people can develop diabetic retinopathy at any time, periodic eye examinations are important.

All people with diabetes, regardless of how good their blood sugar control has been, need regular eye examinations for retinal disease. You should not wait until symptoms such as blurred vision develop because permanent damage may be occurring. When retinopathy is serious, your doctor may need to perform eye examinations more frequently. Remember, laser surgery or vitrectomy cannot cure diabetic retinopathy.

Better control of blood sugar levels will help reduce the chance of developing diabetic retinopathy, but it will not prevent it completely. Slight elevations in blood sugar over a period of several years will eventually cause some damage to blood vessels in the retina.

Two forms of treatment have been used to reduce vision loss from diabetic retinopathy: laser surgery and surgical removal of the vitreous jelly, known as a Vitrectomy. If treated early enough in the course of the disease, a person has a greater than 90 percent chance of keeping some useful vision.

  • Laser Surgery

    Learn whether laser surgery for diabetic retinopathy could be an appropriate treatment for you.

  • Vitrectomy

    The ophthalmologists at Penn Medicine are experienced in all aspects of surgery, including vitrectomy.

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