Announcer: In the United States, there are 14 million people with diabetes, and while most will not lose their vision if they receive treatment, their risk is 25 times greater than it is for the population at large. This risk tends to be a good deal higher among people with Type I diabetes -- the type that usually begins in childhood and must be treated with a medication called insulin. It's somewhat less with Type II, which strikes people in their adult years. But with either type of diabetes, there is a risk, and it's a risk that increases over time. In fact, among those who have had diabetes for 20 years or longer, at least half will show signs of a diabetic eye disease, and the most common of these by far is the disease diagnosed in Mary -- diabetic retinopathy.
Doctor: This is a condition that affects the retina, the part in the back of the eye that captures the images we see. Now, the retina is served by a network of tiny blood vessels. In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, these vessels weaken and break. The result is a leakage of fluid that causes the center of the retina to swell and the eyesight to blur. Now, with the more advanced or proliferative stages, new and abnormally fragile vessels form and break, which produces bleeding in the eye. Eventually this can cause the retina to separate, or detach, resulting in partial or total loss of vision.
Announcer: Diabetic retinopathy is not the only eye disease that may affect people with diabetes. Others include cataract, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded, interfering with eyesight. And glaucoma, where elevated pressure inside the eye damages the optic nerve and, if left untreated, impairs vision. That's the bad news. The good news is that each of these diabetic eye diseases can be treated, and treated with success.