Facts About Diabetic Eye Disease


What is it?

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions that can affect people with diabetes. People with all types of diabetes (type 1, type 2, and gestational) are at risk for diabetic retinopathy.

Points to remember

Diabetic retinopathy

– It’s caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina).

– At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems.

– 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.

Diabetic macular edema (DME).

– A consequence of diabetic retinopathy, DME is swelling in an area of the retina called the macula.


Over time, too much sugar in your blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, cutting off its blood supply. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels. But these new blood vessels don’t develop properly and can leak easily.

In its most advanced stage, new abnormal blood vessels increases in number on the surface of the retina, which can lead to scarring and cell loss in the retina.


The early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually have no symptoms.

As the condition progresses, for diabetic retinopathy the most common symptom is:

– Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters). These spots sometimes clear on their own, but without prompt treatment, bleeding can recur, increasing the risk of permanent vision loss.

Other signs include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Impaired color vision
  • Dark or empty areas in your vision
  • Vision loss


If you have diabetes, reduce your risk of getting diabetic retinopathy by doing the following:

– Manage your diabetes

– Monitor your blood sugar level

– Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control

– If you smoke or use other types of tobacco, ask your doctor to help you quit

– Pay attention to vision changes

– Ask your doctor about a glycosylated hemoglobin test


Treatment, which depends largely on the type of diabetic retinopathy you have and how severe it is, is geared to slowing or stopping progression of the condition.

  1. Early diabetic retinopathy

If you have mild or moderate nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, you may not need treatment right away. However, your eye doctor will closely monitor your eyes to determine when you might need treatment. When diabetic retinopathy is mild or moderate, good blood sugar control can usually slow the progression.

  1. Advanced diabetic retinopathy

If you have proliferative diabetic retinopathy or macular edema, you’ll need prompt surgical treatment.

A) Focal laser treatment

This laser treatment, also known as photocoagulation, can stop or slow the leakage of blood and fluid in the eye. During the procedure, leaks from abnormal blood vessels are treated with laser burns.

B) Scatter laser treatment

This laser treatment, also known as panretinal photocoagulation, can shrink the abnormal blood vessels. During the procedure, the areas of the retina away from the macula are treated with scattered laser burns. The burns cause the abnormal new blood vessels to shrink and scar.

C) Vitrectomy

This procedure uses a tiny incision in your eye to remove blood from the middle of the eye (vitreous) as well as scar tissue that’s tugging on the retina. Vitrectomy may be performed as an outpatient procedure or as an inpatient procedure, usually requiring a single overnight stay in the hospital.

After treatment, the eye may be covered with a patch for days to weeks and may be red and sore. Drops may be applied to the eye to reduce inflammation and the risk of infection. If both eyes require vitrectomy, the second eye usually will be treated after the first eye has recovered.


If you have diabetes, I’d highly recommend going for a yearly eye health check. An eye care professional can help determine if you have diabetic eye disease and recommend the right rehabilitation or surgical procedure to help prevent vision loss. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me here.

Newsletter Sign Up