What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

What is diabetic retinopathy? Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that causes “progressive damage to the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye” (AOA, 2009).

Just like with diabetic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy develops over time due to high blood sugar levels inside of the body.

It specifically causes damage to the blood vessels inside of the retina, causing them to swell, leak, or close (Boyd, 2017).

All of the changes inside of the blood vessels around your retina can cause you to lose vision. It is very important to take this condition very seriously because of this.

At first, retinopathy has no symptoms (Mayo Clinic, 2015). The person might develop minor vision loss. However, over time without treatment can lead to blindness.

People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are susceptible to developing this condition.

According to Mayo Clinic, “the longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication” (Mayo Clinic, 2015).

As the condition progresses over time, you may have some symptoms which include: spots inside of your vision, floaters, blurry vision, fluctuating vision, empty areas in your vision, impaired color vision, and possibly blindness (Mayo Clinic, 2015).

If you are experiencing any of these conditions and have had diabetes for a period of time, it might be best to talk with your doctor about diabetic retinopathy.

It is best to see your eye doctor once a year minimum, so they can look at how your retinas are doing.

Pregnancy can also enhance the development of diabetic retinopathy. Therefore, it would be best to schedule a few appointments during your pregnancy.

If you start experiencing hazy or blurry vision, contact your eye doctor immediately. Do not wait! It is best to get your eyes checked out, so you can prevent blindness.

According to the American Optometric Association, AOA, “When people with diabetes experience long periods of high blood sugar, fluid can accumulate in the lens inside the eye that controls focusing” (AOA, 2009).

This will change the curvature of the lens in your eye, which can lead to blurry vision (AOA, 2009).

You can improve your vision by lowering your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar is at a healthy level, then your body will start to recover. They will be able to slow the progress of diabetic retinopathy.

In order to take preventative measures, it is best to take any required medication that you are prescribed.

Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. This will help you control your blood sugar over long periods of time.

Make sure that you control your blood pressure as well. High blood pressure is common among people with diabetes, and it can cause progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Finally, avoid alcohol and smoking at all costs! Talk with your doctor about quitting.

Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that develops over time due to high blood sugar levels. Therefore, take the steps necessary to prevent the onset of this condition.


American Optometric Association. (2009). American Optometric Association. Retrieved from http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy?sso=y#top

Boyd, K. (2017). What is diabetic retinopathy?. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-diabetic-retinopathy

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Diseases and conditions: diabetic retinopathy. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy/basics/symptoms/con-20023311