Diabetic Retinopathy: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Diabetic Retinopathy is a type of eye disease caused by diabetes. It is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina, a light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye.

Initially, Diabetic Retinopathy shows no symptoms or very minor visual abnormalities. Both type 1 or type 2 diabetes patients can get this disease. The longer a person has diabetes with less blood sugar regulation, the more probable one may get this eye issue.


In the beginning stages of diabetic retinopathy, a person may not notice any symptoms. As the illness worsens, the person might experience the following symptoms:

  • Floating spots or black threads in the eyesight (floaters)
  • Vision distortion
  • Variable vision
  • Double vision
  • Dark or empty spots in the eyesight
  • Loss of vision
  • Blurry vision

When should you see an eye doctor?

Diabetes treatment is the most effective approach to avoid visual loss. If you have diabetes, even if your vision appears to be fine, schedule an annual eye exam and frequent examinations as advised by the ophthalmologist .

Immediately visit your eye doctor when you face difficulty in eyesight. Sudden changes like blurry or foggy vision or floaters in the eye.

Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy is classified into two types:

  • Diabetic Retinopathy in its early stagesIt is the most common type that is also known as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR); new blood vessels do not develop (proliferating) at this stage.
  • Advanced diabetic retinopathyDiabetic Retinopathy, also known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy, has the potential to progress to this more severe type. Blood vessels in the retina get closed in this kind, leading the retina to develop new, aberrant blood vessels. These new blood vessels are fragile and may leak into the transparent, jelly-like fluid that fills your eye (vitreous).

Scar tissue from the formation of new blood vessels may eventually cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye. If the new blood vessels block the usual flow of fluid out of the eye, pressure may build up in the eyeball.


Diabetic Retinopathy is caused due to extra blood sugar, which can cause blockage of the small blood vessels that nourish the retina, stopping its blood supply over time. Therefore, the eye starts to form new blood vessels. These new blood vessels, on the other hand, may not develop correctly and may leak easily causing hemorrhage in the eye .

Risk Factors

Diabetic retinopathy can affect everyone who has diabetes. The risk factors are:

Diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or diabetes before pregnancy might raise the risk of diabetic retinopathy. Consult an Ophthalmologist if you are pregnant.


Diabetic Retinopathy cannot always be prevented. However, regular eye checkups, managing proper blood sugar levels,blood pressure control, and early intervention for vision disorders can help in avoiding loss of vision.

Reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy if you have diabetes by adopting the following lifestyle habits:

  • Control your diabetes Eat healthy food and an iron rich & high protein diet and do some physical activity regularly. Perform exercises for at least 30 minutes a day. Take diabetic medicines or insulin as prescribed.
  • Check on blood sugar levels You may need to check and record the blood sugar levels many times each day — or more frequently if you are sick or stressed.
  • Maintain cholesterol level Healthy eating, frequent exercise, and decreasing extra weight can assist in managing cholesterol levels.
  • Healthy lifestyle Maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat a well-balanced diet, quit smoking or use of other forms of tobacco, and consult your doctor for assistance in quitting. Smoking increases the chances of developing diabetes problems such as diabetic retinopathy.
  • Keep an eye on changes in your vision If you notice some changes in your eyesight, like it suddenly gets blurry, or foggy, then contact your eye doctor immediately.
  • Glycosylated hemoglobin test Glycosylated hemoglobin test also known as the hemoglobin A1C test, determines the average blood sugar level during the past 2-3 months.
  • Remember that diabetes does not always result in eyesight loss. The A1C target for the majority of diabetics is less than 7%.


Following are the tests to diagnose diabetic retinopathy:

  • Visual acuity examination This is the most frequent eye chart test for measuring central vision ability at varying distances.
  • Tonometry Tonometry is a test that measures the pressure IOP(intraocular pressure) in the eye.
  • Dilation of the pupils An examination in which your pupil is expanded using eye drops to allow for a close-up of the lens and retina of your eye.
  • Ophthalmoscopy A special magnifying lens is used to examine the retina during this examination.
  • Angiography with fluorescein An organic dye is injected into the bloodstream to display the blood vessels in the eye. This occurs while photos are being collected with a specific camera and will reveal to your doctor whether the blood vessels are leaking or no longer feeding areas of the retina.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) It is an imaging method that uses light waves to create detailed photographs of the retina which detect diabetic changes easily .


Diabetic retinopathy treatment is based on symptoms, age, and overall health. Treatment also is decided by the severity of the condition.

Patients with advanced retinopathy who receive treatment before their retina suffers significant damage have a good chance of retaining their vision.

Diabetic retinopathy treatment may include one or more of the following:

  • Laser treatment: This is frequently used to treat proliferative retinopathy and, in rare cases, retinal edema. It entails either reducing or closing the aberrant blood vessels and helps in reabsorption of haemorrhage
  • Vitrectomy: The surgical procedure of removing the jelly-like material along with (vitreous) that fills the center of the eye is known as a vitrectomy. A balanced saline solution is used to replace the vitreous.
  • Injections: To treat macular edema and reduce the production of abnormal retinal vessels, some medications can be injected into the eye like Anti VEGFs

Do's And Don'ts

Following are some sets of do's and don'ts to be followed during diabetic retinopathy:

Do’s Don’ts
Get regular eye checkups Have inadequate sleep
Take proper nutrients Do smoking
Wear eye protection when necessary Use screens for long hours
Monitor blood sugar levels Forget to take diabetes medicines
Manage cholesterol levels Forget to exercise regularly

Diabetic Retinopathy can cause vision loss and other serious problems, so it is very important to get treated.

Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover Hospitals, we have the most trusted team of doctors and medical experts who are experienced in providing excellent healthcare services to patients with compassion and care. Our diagnostic department is equipped with modern technology and equipment to conduct the tests required for the diagnosis of Diabetic Retinopathy. We have an excellent team of an ophthalmologist who diagnose and treat this condition with utmost precision that brings successful treatment outcomes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is diabetic retinopathy (DR)?

The retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye, is harmed by diabetes-related retinopathy, an eye condition. It is the primary factor in diabetics' vision deterioration.

2. How does diabetic retinopathy develop?

DR gradually appears as a result of the retina's blood vessels being damaged by excessive blood sugar levels. There are two types: proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) and non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). NPDR involves weakened blood vessels and small hemorrhages, while PDR involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

3. Who is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetics, whether type 1 or type 2, are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. The risk increases with diabetes duration and poor blood sugar control.

4. Are there any early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy often has no noticeable symptoms. To detect and treat the condition before it worsens and impairs vision, routine eye exams are crucial.

5. How can diabetic retinopathy be detected?

Diabetic retinopathy is normally diagnosed by an eye professional (ophthalmologist or optometrist) after a thorough eye examination. This examination may include dilation of the pupils to get a better view of the retina.

6. Can diabetic retinopathy be prevented?

While you can't completely prevent diabetic retinopathy, you can significantly reduce your risk by managing your diabetes effectively. This includes controlling blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well as leading a healthy lifestyle.

7. What are the treatment options for diabetic retinopathy?

Injections of an anti-VEGF medication, laser therapy, and occasionally surgery are among the treatments for diabetic retinopathy. The severity and stage of the disease determine the best course of action.

8. Is diabetic retinopathy reversible?

Diabetic retinopathy is not usually reversible, but early detection and timely treatment can prevent or slow down its progression and reduce the risk of severe vision loss.

9. How often should people with diabetes have their eyes checked for diabetic retinopathy?

Even if they don't exhibit any signs of diabetic retinopathy, people with diabetes should get a thorough eye checkup at least once a year, according to the American Diabetes Association. More frequent exams may be necessary if diabetic retinopathy is already present.

10. Can lifestyle changes help manage diabetic retinopathy?

Yes, leading a healthy lifestyle with proper diabetes control, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising frequently, and quitting smoking, can help decrease the development of diabetic retinopathy and lower the risk of problems.

11. What are the potential complications of advanced diabetic retinopathy?

Advanced diabetic retinopathy can lead to vision loss or blindness. It can also increase the risk of other eye conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts.

12. Is diabetic retinopathy the only eye condition associated with diabetes?

No, diabetes can also increase the risk of other eye conditions, including diabetic macular edema (DME), cataracts, and glaucoma.

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