Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic eye disease can affect many parts of the eye, including the retina, macula, lens and the optic nerve.

Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults.

In its early stages, it may not affect your vision, and you may not even be aware that you have it. That’s why it’s important to have regular check-ups from an eye specialist if you suffer from diabetes.

Vision lost to diabetic retinopathy is sometimes irreversible. However, early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent. Because it often lacks early symptoms, people with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. People already diagnosed with the condition may need eye exams more frequently. Women with diabetes who become pregnant should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible as eye disease can get suddenly worse in pregnancy. Additional exams during pregnancy may be needed.

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The symptoms

When diabetic retinopathy starts to affect your vision, you may notice you have difficulty with reading and close-up work. Floaters in your vision and double vision may also be symptoms, although they can have other causes too.

In some cases, the condition may also lead to glaucoma.

Understanding the condition

Diabetic retinopathy has a number of stages:


The early or ‘non-proliferative’ stages are characterised by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, but your vision tends not to be affected.


Once the disease reaches the more advanced ‘proliferative’ stage, abnormal and fragile blood vessels begin to grow on the retina.

Macular Oedema:

In this problem, the abnormal blood vessels leak fluid into the macula – the centre of the retina – causing blurred vision. 

Vitreous Haemorrhage:

Sometimes, the abnormal blood vessels can bleed into the vitreous ‘gel’ inside the eye. This is known as a vitreous haemorrhage, and can also cause blurred vision.


As soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes, you should make an appointment for a diabetic retinopathy check up. If you are diagnosed with this condition, your treatment will depend on the stage of the disease. Talk to our eye specialists about diabetic retinopathy treatment today.


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