Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition affecting the retina due to a complication of diabetes.

The retina is the light sensitive layer of skin that covers the back of the eye. The retina needs a constant supply of blood and receives this through a pathway of small blood vessels. Over time, these blood vessels can become damaged due to the high consistency of sugar in the blood. This in turn, can cause bulges in the blood vessels which can also bleed. If this continues and, along with the resulting scar tissue, blindness can occur over time.

Small changes in lifestyle along with treatment can make a significant difference to its development.

Am I at risk?

You are at greater risk of developing the condition if you:

  • Have had diabetes for a long time
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Are pregnant
  • Or are from an Asian, African or Afro-Caribbean background


You may not notice any symptoms straight away as the condition can take a long time to present itself. A regular eye examination can help to catch it quickly. Nowadays, most opticians will offer a photo of the back of the eye as part of the eye exam which is an excellent method for early detection.

If you already have the condition you will be invited for a yearly diabetic screening in addition to a normal eye examination.

Some symptoms could include:

  • gradually worsening vision
  • sudden vision loss
  • shapes floating in your field of vision (floaters)
  • blurred vision
  • eye pain or redness

These symptoms by themselves do not necessarily mean you definitely have diabetic retinopathy but it is important that you get checked out if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Regular eye examinations can help to spot early detection of the condition allowing it to be managed before it does any damage to your eyes.

You will be sent for treatments if there is a significant problem that means your vision is at risk.

Treatments include:

  • laser treatment
  • injections of medication into your eyes
  • an operation to remove blood or scar tissue from your eyes