Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms

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Diabetic retinopathy is a disease caused by high blood sugar levels and damages the back of the eye (retina). It may result in blindness if not diagnosed and treated on time. However, it usually takes a few years for diabetic retinopathy to enter a stage where it can damage your sight. To reduce the risk of this condition, people having diabetes must be cautious to identify the symptoms associated with it. In this article, we will highlight important information about diabetic retinopathy and its symptoms.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that deteriorates the blood vessels in the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive layer of cells found at the back of the eye. It changes light into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain. The brain then turns them into images we see. The retina requires a continuous supply of blood that it receives from a network of little blood vessels. With time, a steady high blood sugar level damages these blood vessels in the following stages:

Diabetic Retinopathy

Background retinopathy small bulges grow in blood vessels, which can bleed marginally but do not generally affect vision.

Pre-proliferative retinopathy – more widespread and severe changes damage the blood vessels, including bleeding into an eye.

Proliferative retinopathy – damage tissue and new blood vessels, which are feeble and bleed easily, grow onto the retina; this may lead to loss of vision up to some extent.

Diabetic Retinopathy image

The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

In the initial stages, most of the patients experience no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. You might not feel vision changes until this condition gets severe. For some patients, symptoms keep coming and going.
The major symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are:
– Blurred or affected vision.
– New color blindness or colors felt as faded.
– Poor night vision (i.e. night blindness).
– Little dark spots (eye floaters) and streaks in vision.
– Trouble seeing or reading the faraway objects.


An eye doctor (ophthalmologist) detects diabetic retinopathy based on a simple exam.
– Visual acuity: Acuity means how clearly one can see.
– Intraocular pressure to ensure there are no symptoms of glaucoma.
– Eye muscle function: Muscle function means how well one can move their eye.
– Peripheral vision: Peripheral vision means seeing from the sides of the eyes.
– Pupil response: This examination looks at how the pupils respond to the light.
– Then, the eye doctor puts drops into the patient’s eyes. The drops dilate (broaden) his pupils (centers of the eyes).
During such exam, the doctor tries to find:
Irregular blood vessels.
Bleeding in the center of the eye.
Growth of the new blood vessels.
Retina swelling.

The Treatment

The eye doctor usually takes into account various factors to develop a treatment plan for this condition, including:
– Age.
– Medical history.
– The extent of the retinal damage.
– Visual acuity.
– HgbA1c.

In the initial stages of the disease, the eye doctor may adopt a wait-and-see approach, particularly in the setting of good vision. During this point, the patient undergoes regular eye exams but does not usually need further treatment. Some people must have eye exams every two to four months.
Other treatment alternatives include:

– Injections: The eye doctor injects medication, like anti-vascular endothelial growth factor medicines or corticosteroids, into the eye. These medicines help reduce disease development and recover vision.
– Laser surgery: The eye doctor uses a laser to decrease swelling in the retina and new blood vessel growth. The lasers set the blood vessels or stop leaking.
– Vitrectomy: The eye doctor may suggest this outpatient eye surgery if the patient has cloudy vision because of leaking blood vessels. During the vitrectomy, the eye doctor makes a little incision in the eye. The doctor can repair the blood vessels and eliminate scar tissue.

How to Prevent?

If you are a diabetic patient, you can reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by:
– Avoiding smoking.
– Controlling blood sugar.
– Exercising regularly.
– Having regular eye exams.
– Keeping blood pressure within a healthy range.
– Taking the medications as prescribed.

With timely diagnosis and treatment, you may prevent vision loss and stop diabetic retinopathy progression. After treatment, you can have a positive outcome if you control your diabetes and keep your blood sugar under control. Above all, you must enhance your body’s immunity to heal naturally.

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