Donate to Diabetic Retinopathy Research, Patient Care and Education

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition caused by a change in the blood vessels of the retina in people with diabetes. In the United States alone, it is the leading cause of blindness in adults and is the most common diabetic eye disease. In some cases, diabetic retinopathy may cause retinal blood vessels to swell and leak fluids and in other cases can cause the growth of abnormal blood vessels on the surface of the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss or blindness but can be treated if caught early enough.  Patients with diabetes must have a dilated eye exam once a year. Your contribution to Northwestern Memorial Foundation will help to provide physicians and the medical staff with the resources necessary to make sure that patients with diabetes receive these annual exams.

There is no known cure for diabetic retinopathy, but there are ways to slow down the progression of the disease.  Proper maintenance of blood sugar levels, for example, is crucial and may help prevent surgery. Diabetic retinopathy may show no signs or symptoms in its early stages and may not even be detected until a loss of vision has already begun.  Diabetic retinopathy may also cause a condition called macular edema, in which part of the retina, called the macula, leaks fluid and swells, causing blurred vision. As new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, hemorrhaging occurs, leaking blood into the eye and impairing vision.  When you make a financial gift to Northwestern Memorial Foundation, you will improve the ability of physicians to detect diabetic retinopathy earlier.

Patients with diabetes need to monitor blood sugar levels carefully, take medications and use insulin as directed, eat to increase blood sugar as needed, exercise to reduce blood sugar and test urine for ketone levels regularly.  According to the National Eye Institute, even people with advanced retinopathy have a good chance of keeping their vision if they receive the appropriate treatment before the retina becomes seriously damaged. When you make a donation to Northwestern Memorial Foundation, your gift will go toward providing the appropriate treatment for patients with advanced diabetic retinopathy and potentially saving their vision.  Your support makes a difference.

Diabetic Retinopathy Research, Patient Care and Education Donation

Northwestern Medicine offers a variety of treatments for diabetic retinopathy, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Injections— Medications injected into the eye may reduce the swelling growth of blood vessels that interfere with vision.
  • Cryotherapy— Freezing temperatures may reduce the size of blood vessels that are growing abnormally on the retina or in the vitreous.
  • Laser surgery— Frequently used to treat macular edema and proliferative retinopathy, laser surgery involves shrinking the abnormal blood vessels or sealing the leaking ones.
  • Vitrectomy— This procedure consists of removing the cloudy vitreous (the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eye) and replacing it with a salt solution.


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