Here's Why Pregnancy Puts You at Risk For Diabetic Retinopathy

When most people think of diabetes, they think of Type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes and Type 2 (adult-onset or diet-related) diabetes. But there’s a third type of diabetes that often goes without the same scrutiny of care: gestational diabetes. 

 

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed when a woman who has never previously shown diabetes develops the disease during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gestational diabetes usually appears around the middle of pregnancy, so doctors usually test for it between weeks 24 and 28. 

 

Any woman can develop gestational diabetes, but it’s more likely to affect women who eat an unhealthy diet, don’t exercise, are overweight, have high blood pressure, or have a history of heart disease. 

Gestational diabetes and diabetic eye disease

If not managed or treated, gestational diabetes can harm both mother and child during pregnancy and after. For example, gestational diabetes is linked to high blood pressure during pregnancy, which increases a woman’s risk of having a stroke or blood clots during delivery. 

 

Unmanaged gestational diabetes can also cause the baby to have seriously low blood sugar upon birth. 

 

Another cause for concern is diabetic retinopathy in pregnant women. Retinopathy is an eye condition that can cause vision loss and even complete blindness if not treated. Diabetes causes retinopathy because high blood sugar — the driver of diabetes — damages the tiny blood vessels that support the retina in the back of your eye. Over time, that damage can cause your blood vessels to bleed, leak fluid, and become blocked. 

 

Eventually, diabetic retinopathy alters the way your brain receives images from your eyes, leading to vision loss. 

What you can do

As with most diseases, prevention and treatment of diabetic retinopathy starts with preventive exams. Your primary care physician or OB/GYN should screen you for gestational diabetes near the middle of your pregnancy. If your results come back positive, you should see your eye doctor for a dilated eye exam

 

Diabetic retinopathy usually doesn’t show signs or symptoms in the early stages, but catching it early is the best way — and only true way — to keep it from progressing. Prevention and treatment for diabetic retinopathy involves careful management of your diabetes, which entails eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping an eye on your blood sugar, and taking any medications prescribed by your doctor. 


To learn more about diabetic retinopathy or to get screened, visit Ventura Eye Institute. Call our Camarillo, California, office at 805-250-9723 or book your appointment online. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.

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