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Resources for Independent Living with Vision Loss

American Foundation for the Blind® | Reader's Digest Partners for Sight

Introduction to Diabetes & Diabetic Retinopathy

By Debra A. Sokol-McKay

NEI example of seeing with diabetic retinopathy: many blind spots and overall blurriness

What a person with diabetic retinopathy sees

What was the first thing you thought about when you were diagnosed with diabetes? You probably experienced a wide-ranging mix of emotions, and wondered how this news would affect the rest of your life. Your family might have had similar feelings.

Diabetes is a complex condition that warrants serious attention. Talk about your concerns and feelings with your doctor, your family and friends—and together, learn the facts.

While there is no cure for diabetes, its potential day-to-day impact can be dramatically reduced by learning how to manage your medical situation, understanding what will and will not improve your condition, and doing as much as you can to help yourself. Self-help is key! Learn more in What Is Diabetes?

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina. It can cause "blind spots," blurring, and vision loss. Vision may change from day to day, or even from morning to evening. This "fluctuating vision" can interfere with many, if not most, everyday activities.

Early detection, appropriate and ongoing treatment, and the availability of specialized low vision and vision rehabilitation services can help people with diabetic retinopathy live productive and satisfying lives.

New to vision loss? Our Getting Started Kit can help.

Personal Stories

  • Vivian, A Woman with Diabetes
    Vivian is a quiet-spoken woman who has strong opinions and religious beliefs and a dignified determination. Vivian was diagnosed with diabetes twenty years ago, at age 58. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and spinal stenosis.

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