WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults 20-74. Damage to tiny blood vessels in the retina can leak blood into the eye. This causes vision loss.
Diabetic Retinopathy affects more than 4.4 million Americans 40 and over each year. The Washington National Eye Clinic at Medstar Washington Hospital Center sees around 3,000 patients yearly.
Reshma Katira, MD of The Retina Group of Washington talks to 9 News Now's Anita Brikman about this condition that affects both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
Anita: This condition is caused by diabetes but what actually happens inside the eye?
Dr. Katira: Inside the eye, in the back of the eye called the retina, which is the nerve tissue for sight, the capillaries that supply the tissue actually will start to burst open and bleed and leak, blurring the vision.
Anita: What do you see when you look in the back of the eye?
Dr. Katira: What's wonderful about the eye is without actually cutting open the body we can just dial up the eye non-invasively, we can look inside and see blood flow to the retina. You can see the small little hemorrhages and evidence of leakage which are yellow spots which indicate cholesterol leaking out of the system.
Anita: Let's turn that around, what does the person see when that is going on inside their eye?
Dr. Katira: Very commonly they'll have blurred vision, distortion, they'll have blind spots blocking their vision sometimes just floaters.
Anita: Floaters, so that can be something that is actually kinda serious?
Dr. Katira: Yeah, it can be. Most floaters are normal, a lot of people have floaters. But, new floaters always need to be checked out because it can indicate bleeding sometimes even something else like a retinal tear.
Anita: Are you sometimes the one to tell a person 'listen, I think you have diabetes?'.
Dr. Katira: Unfortunately this has happened, diabetes tends to affect the eyes the kidneys and the feet and with the eyes being so delicate, sometimes it's the first organ that shows the symptoms.
To see the full live interview click the video tab in this article.