Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. It is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). The condition can lead to vision impairment and even blindness if left untreated. Diabetic retinopathy is a major cause of vision loss among adults with diabetes.

Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

There are two main types of diabetic retinopathy:

  1. Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR): In this early stage, the blood vessels in the retina weaken and develop small bulges. These weakened blood vessels may leak fluid and blood into the retina, leading to swelling or edema. This stage may not cause vision problems initially, but it requires close monitoring as it can progress to more severe stages.
  2. Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR): This advanced stage occurs when the blood vessels in the retina become so damaged that they close off. In response, new abnormal blood vessels start growing on the surface of the retina. These new blood vessels are fragile and can bleed into the vitreous, the clear gel-like substance that fills the center of the eye. This bleeding can lead to severe vision loss and even blindness.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of diabetic retinopathy is not fully understood, but high levels of sugar in the blood over time can damage the small blood vessels in the retina. Several factors can increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, including:

  • Duration of diabetes.
  • Poor control of blood sugar levels.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Tobacco use.


In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy may not cause noticeable symptoms. As the condition progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision.
  • Floaters or spots in your field of vision.
  • Impaired color vision.
  • Dark or empty areas in your vision.
  • Vision loss.


Diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination, which may include:

  • Visual acuity testing.
  • Dilated eye exam.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT).
  • Fluorescein angiography.


The treatment for diabetic retinopathy depends on the stage and severity of the condition. Options may include:

  1. Laser Surgery: To seal leaking blood vessels and prevent new abnormal vessel growth.
  2. Vitrectomy: In advanced cases where there is significant bleeding into the vitreous, a surgical procedure called vitrectomy may be performed to remove blood from the center of the eye.

It’s important for individuals with diabetes to have regular comprehensive eye exams to detect diabetic retinopathy early and prevent vision loss.


Managing diabetes effectively is crucial in preventing or slowing down the progression of diabetic retinopathy. This includes:

  • Controlling blood sugar levels.
  • Managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Leading a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Regular eye exams are also essential for early detection and timely intervention.


Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to vision impairment and blindness if left untreated. Early detection through regular eye exams and effective management of diabetes are crucial in preventing or slowing down its progression.