Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. As eye doctor at Eyecrafters Optical with many years of experience in diagnosing and treating this condition, we can provide a comprehensive guide to diabetic retinopathy. In this article, we will discuss what diabetic retinopathy is, its causes, symptoms, and available treatment options. So, let’s dive right in!

I. Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy: A. Definition: Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This damage can lead to vision problems and, if left untreated, can even cause blindness.

B. Types of Diabetic Retinopathy:

  • Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR): This is the early stage of the disease, where small blood vessels in the retina leak blood or fluid.

  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR): In this advanced stage, new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, which are fragile and prone to bleeding.

II. Causes and Risk Factors: A. Diabetes: The primary cause of diabetic retinopathy is diabetes, particularly when blood sugar levels are not well controlled. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to the development of this condition.

B. Duration of Diabetes: The longer a person has diabetes, the higher the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. It is crucial for individuals with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels to reduce the risk and progression of this eye disease.

C. Other Risk Factors: Additional risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, pregnancy, and tobacco smoking. These factors can exacerbate the damage caused by diabetes and increase the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy.

III. Symptoms: In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy may not cause noticeable symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, individuals may experience the following:

A. Blurred Vision: Blurred vision is one of the most common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. It occurs when the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp vision, swells or leaks fluid.

B. Floaters: Floaters are tiny specks or spots that appear to float across your field of vision. They are caused by small bits of blood or other fluids leaking into the vitreous gel, which fills the eye.

C. Vision Loss: As the condition worsens, diabetic retinopathy can lead to significant vision loss or even blindness if left untreated. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to preserving vision.

IV. Diagnosis and Treatment Options: A. Eye Examinations: Regular eye examinations are essential for individuals with diabetes to detect and monitor diabetic retinopathy. These exams typically include visual acuity tests, dilated eye examinations, and imaging tests such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) or fluorescein angiography.

B. Treatment:

  • Laser Treatment: Laser treatment, known as photocoagulation, is commonly used to treat diabetic retinopathy. It aims to seal leaking blood vessels or destroy abnormal blood vessels to prevent further damage to the retina.

  • Anti-VEGF Injections: Anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) injections are another treatment option for diabetic retinopathy. These injections can help reduce swelling and leakage in the retina by blocking the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

  • Vitrectomy: In advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy where there is significant bleeding or scar tissue, a surgical procedure called vitrectomy may be necessary. During this procedure, the vitreous gel is removed and replaced with a clear fluid to restore vision.

    Diabetic retinopathy is a serious eye condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s vision and quality of life. As eye doctors, we strongly emphasize the importance of regular eye examinations, proper diabetes management, and early intervention to prevent or minimize the progression of diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, don’t neglect your eye health – schedule a comprehensive eye exam today and take control of your ocular well-being.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that may occur in people who have diabetes. It causes progressive damage to the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye.

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious sight-threatening complication of diabetes. Diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to use and store sugar (glucose). The disease is characterized by too much sugar in the blood, which can cause damage throughout the body, including the eyes. Over time, diabetes damages small blood vessels throughout the body, including the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when these tiny blood vessels leak blood and other fluids. This causes the retinal tissue to swell, resulting in cloudy or blurred vision.

Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness. When people with diabetes experience long periods of high blood sugar, fluid can accumulate in the lens inside the eye that controls focusing. This changes the curvature of the lens, leading to changes in vision. However, once blood sugar levels are controlled, usually the lens will return to its original shape and vision improves. Patients with diabetes who can better control their blood sugar levels will slow the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy.

According to a 2018 American Eye-Q ® survey conducted by the AOA, nearly half of Americans didn’t know whether diabetic eye diseases have visible symptoms (often which the early stages of diabetic retinopathy does not). The same survey found that more than one-third of Americans didn’t know a comprehensive eye exam is the only way to determine if a person’s diabetes will cause blindness, which is why the AOA recommends that everyone with diabetes have a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once a year. Early detection and treatment can limit the potential for significant vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.

Causes & risk factors

Diabetic retinopathy results from the damage diabetes causes to the small blood vessels located in the retina. These damaged blood vessels can cause vision loss:

Diabetic retinopathy is classified into two types.

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the early stage of the disease in which symptoms will be mild or nonexistent. In NPDR, the blood vessels in the retina are weakened. Tiny bulges in the blood vessels, called microaneurysms, may leak fluid into the retina. This leakage may lead to swelling of the macula.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the more advanced form of the disease. At this stage, circulation problems deprive the retina of oxygen. As a result, new, fragile blood vessels can begin to grow in the retina and into the vitreous, the gel-like fluid that fills the back of the eye. The new blood vessels may leak blood into the vitreous, clouding vision.

Other complications of PDR include detachment of the retina due to scar tissue formation and the development of glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease in which there is progressive damage to the optic nerve. In PDR, new blood vessels grow into the area of the eye that drains fluid from the eye. This greatly raises the eye pressure, which damages the optic nerve. If left untreated, PDR can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.

Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include:


Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:


Diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Testing, with emphasis on evaluating the retina and macula, may include:

Supplemental testing may include:


Treatment of diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the extent of the disease. People with diabetic retinopathy may need laser surgery to seal leaking blood vessels or to discourage other blood vessels from leaking. A doctor of optometry might need to inject medications into the eye to decrease inflammation or stop the formation of new blood vessels. People with advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy might need a surgical procedure to remove and replace the gel-like fluid in the back of the eye, called the vitreous. Surgery may also be needed to repair a retinal detachment. This is a separation of the light-receiving lining in the back of the eye.

If you are diabetic, you can help prevent or slow the development of diabetic retinopathy by:

Laser treatment (photocoagulation) is used to stop the leakage of blood and fluid into the retina. A laser beam of light can be used to create small burns in areas of the retina with abnormal blood vessels to try to seal the leaks. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy depends on the stage of the disease. The goal of any treatment is to slow or stop the progression of the disease. In the early stages of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, regular monitoring may be the only treatment. Following your doctor’s advice for diet and exercise and controlling blood sugar levels can help control the progression of the disease.

Injections of medication in the eye are aimed at discouraging the formation of abnormal blood vessels and may help slow down the damaging effects of diabetic retinopathy. If the disease advances, the abnormal blood vessels can leak blood and fluid into the retina, leading to macular edema. Laser treatment (photocoagulation) can stop this leakage. A laser beam of light creates small burns in areas of the retina with abnormal blood vessels to try to seal the leaks. Widespread blood vessel growth in the retina, which occurs in proliferative diabetic retinopathy, can be treated by creating a pattern of scattered laser burns across the retina. This causes abnormal blood vessels to shrink and disappear. With this procedure, some side vision may be lost in order to safeguard the central vision.


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