Diabetic retinopathy is the most common and most serious eye-related complication of diabetes. It is a progressive disease that destroys small blood vessels in the retina, eventually causing vision problems. In its most advanced form (known as "proliferative retinopathy") it can cause blindness. Nearly all people with juvenile (type 1) diabetes show some symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, usually after about 20 years of living with diabetes; approximately 20 to 30 percent of them develop the advanced form. Those with type 2 diabetes are also at risk.
How Far Have JDRF Come?
For years, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has taken a leadership role in the fight against diabetic retinopathy by funding research leading to new (and earlier) clinical interventions and preventive strategies, and sponsoring workshops to bring together major private and public institutions involved in this area. In 2000 and 2002, the foundation took this support a step further by launching two new JDRF Research Centers to investigate retinopathy.
Researchers are trying to understand exactly how diabetic retinopathy occurs in order to effectively prevent, treat, or slow it. One target is an enzyme which appears to trigger damage done to the eye's small blood vessels. Another study is examining whether retinopathy may result from changes in the cells of the retina. Also, while laser and surgical treatments have been successful in slowing and even reversing vision loss, focus continues on new screening methods to aid early detection.
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