Signs and Symptoms
Often, especially in the early stages of retinopathy, there are no symptoms. The presenting symptom of retinopathy is vision loss, typically in both eyes (NEI 2012). A wide spectrum of vision problems are observed, ranging from mildly blurred vision to sudden and dramatic loss of vision, particularly in the case of retinal detachment or hemorrhage (Helbig 2002; Yanoff 2010).
Different manifestations of retinopathy will affect vision differently. For example, hemorrhaging over the retina will cause sudden vision loss sometimes described as “a curtain falling.” Resorption of blood from around the retina can cause floaters, which are small specks that can appear in the vision, while macular edema can cause a decrease in visual acuity that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts (Fraser 2013). However, most people do not have symptoms until the late stages of retinopathy (Fante 2010; McCulloch 2013b). Many of the early signs of diabetic retinopathy can be detected by a doctor examining the retina. These signs include small aneurysms in the eye, “cotton wool spots” (which are caused by small areas of nerve death), flame-shaped hemorrhages, and “hard” exudates (Viswanath 2003; Kollias 2010; Kembhavi 2011).