The longer a person has diabetes, the greater their risk of developing retinopathy.
Before Minnie Ellis was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, she thought something caught on her eyelash. But it was not.
"My eye was hemorrhaging," Ellis said.
Retinotherapy occurs when high blood sugar levels weaken blood vessels in the retina. If they are weak, blood vessels can begin to bleed.
Sugar level changes also promote the growth of new blood vessels that can break and bleed easily, according to doctors.
"If it gets to the point where when the patient sees the problem, it's often too late. Not too late to save to the eye, but you've missed the turning point," said Dr. Raynor Casey, a retina specialist.
Casey said he sees lots of diabetics with retinopathy, but added that the best defense is to have an annual dilated eye exam.
"At least 50 percent of people are not getting their yearly eye exams, according to the
American Diabetes Association
," said Casey.
An eye exam detected Ellis' retinopathy and she had laser treatment to seal off the leaking blood vessels.
But she said there is another problem.
"There's some new blood vessel growth coming along the edges right there," said Casey.
Doctors said the treatment should prevent vessels from growing and causing future problems.
"I think she's going to do very well," said Casey.
Ellis said she is willing to do anything to keep her sight.
"I don't want to go blind," she said.
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