Diabetic Retinopathy: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy is a health condition that usually occurs due to the damage to the blood vessels in the retina of the eyes in people who have diabetes. Diabetic Retinopathy could develop if you have type 1 & 2 diabetes. People having a long history of uncontrolled levels of high blood sugar are also prone to Diabetic Retinopathy. While you might start out with only mild vision problems with Diabetic Retinopathy, the problem could eventually lead to the complete loss of vision. When Diabetic Retinopathy is left untreated, it turns out to be one of the major causes of complete blindness in a majority of the patients. Diabetic Retinopathy also turns out to be the most common eye disorder in people who have diabetes. 

There are different types of Diabetic Retinopathy that you must know about. Here are some:

  • NPDR (Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy): Also referred to as the “background retinopathy,” the Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NDPR) is termed as “non-proliferative” because the eye is not able to develop new blood vessels during the early stages of those having Diabetic Retinopathy. During the early stages of Diabetic Retinopathy, the damaged blood vessels tend to leak blood & some fluids into the eye. In some typical cases, the center of the eye’s retina or macula starts swelling up. This leads to the development of a condition referred to as “macular edema.” There are different stages of NDPR including mild, moderate, and severe. The subsequent stages of NDPR might progress to the fourth stage which is referred to as “proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy.” 

  • PDR (Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy): Also referred to as “advanced retinopathy”, this tends to be the final stage of Diabetic Retinopathy in which new blood vessels start growing within the retina of the eyes. The development of the new blood vessels might turn out abnormal and might grow in the center of the eye.

Who is Prone to Diabetic Retinopathy?

People who have either type 1 or 2 diabetes are prone to developing Diabetic Retinopathy. As the name implies, this is the health condition associated with the damage to the retina of the eyes in people who have diabetes. 

How does Diabetic Retinopathy Occur?

Diabetic Retinopathy is usually caused by higher levels of blood sugar in the blood over prolonged periods. The presence of excess blood sugar level tends to damage the blood vessels that are responsible for supplying blood to the retina. High blood pressure could also be the major risk factor of developing Diabetic Retinopathy. 

The longer time you will have diabetes, there are higher chances of developing Diabetic Retinopathy. Nearly all those who have diabetes for over 30 years will show signs of developing Diabetic Retinopathy at some stage. When you maintain your diabetes under control throughout, it can help in preventing Diabetic Retinopathy in your case. 

What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy? How is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?

It is quite uncommon for the individuals to experience any typical Diabetic Retinopathy symptoms during the early stages of the condition. The symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy do not usually appear until some major damage occurs inside the retina of the eyes. Individuals who have diabetes can remain safe from the unseen damages of the given condition by maintaining the blood sugar levels and getting the eye examined regularly by the doctor. 

When the symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy do appear, these are most commonly observed in both the eyes. Some of the common Diabetic Retinopathy symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in seeing at night
  • Seeing dark spots or floaters
  • A partial or complete loss of vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty in distinguishing colors


When you are reflecting the Diabetic Retinopathy symptoms, the doctor might perform the physical examination of your eyes with the help of a dilated eye examination. The physical examination would involve the use of eye drops that will help in keeping the pupils wide open for a proper checkup. The doctor will check your eyes for any swelling, abnormal blood vessels, scarring, leaking of the blood vessels, damage to the nerve tissue, or retinal detachment. 

Other diagnosis methods might involve a fluorescein angiography and OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) test. 

What is the Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy?

The individuals suffering from Diabetic Retinopathy have limited options when it comes to the treatment for the given condition. In cases of advanced Diabetic Retinopathy, the treatment options might vary depending on the severity and type of retinopathy. Some of the possible treatments include Scatter photocoagulation, vitrectomy, focal coagulation, and others. 

Home Remedies for Diabetic Retinopathy

  • Quit smoking and limit your intake of alcohol
  • Keep your blood sugar level under control
  • Get eye examinations on a regular basis

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