Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and North America. Specifically, this refers to people who have been living a life with diabetes after a couple of decades. Long-term diabetes means that people with diabetes will show signs of retinal damage and this risk.
Retinopathy is an umbrella to describe damage to the retinal blood vessels. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes are the most significant causes. Though anemia, lupus and sickle cell disease also play their part along with other underlying conditions. That said, it's also seen in newborns who have not had the time to develop these conditions. Alone, hypertension rarely impairs vision. But if it develops into hypertensive retinopathy blockage to retinal veins and arteries is common. Both smoking and long-term diabetes increase the risk of developing hypertensive retinopathy.
Management of the underlying conditions which cause retinopathy is key to avoiding it or lessening its severity. With diabetes, this, of course, means blood sugar level management. You certainly should be doing this as a person with diabetes in the first place as this is key. In addition to lowering your chance of developing retinopathy, it's likely your doctor's most substantial concern. Keep your cholesterol down with exercise and possibly medication if your doctor prescribes it. The same with lupus and sickle-cell, manage it. Unfortunately, pregnancy and being African-American, Hispanic or Native American presents a higher risk, but there is little that can be done about that.
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