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Overview of Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy occurs over time when too much sugar in your blood leads to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. This cuts off the blood supply to the retina. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels. But these new blood vessels don't develop properly and can leak easily.

There are two different types of diabetic retinopathy. Early diabetic retinopathy, called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), is the most common, it occurs when new blood vessels aren't growing.

When you have NPDR, the walls of the blood vessels in your retina become weaken. little bulges called microaneurysms stick out from the vessel walls of the smaller vessels and can leak fluid and blood into the retina. Larger retinal vessels can begin to dilate and become irregular in diameter, as well. NPDR can progress from mild to severe, as more blood vessels become blocked.

The second type of Diabetic retinopathy is advanced diabetic retinopathy. This occurs when the diabetic retinopathy goes untreated. In this type, damaged blood vessels close off and cause the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels in the retina that can leak into the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye (vitreous).

Eventually, scar tissue created by the growth of these new blood vessels cause the retina to detach from the back of your eye causing pressure to increase on the eyeball. This can damage the nerve that carries images from your eye to your brain (optic nerve), resulting in glaucoma.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy involves swelling, leaking or abnormal growth of blood vessels in or near the retina. There are multiple stages to this disease, the earliest of which may not present any symptoms you can see.

Symptoms you can see include dark or black spots in your vision that increase over time, or severely blurred vision due to bleeding within the eye.

That’s why comprehensive eye exams are so important when thinking about diabetes and eye sight—both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop some form of the disease.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

Treatments for diabetic retinopathy include replacement of the inner gel inside the eye (called a vitrectomy) and different kinds of laser surgery. A recent clinical trial also suggested that better control of blood sugar levels slows the onset and progression of the disease in many patients.


Special thanks to the EyeGlass Guide, for informational material that aided in the creation of this website. Visit the EyeGlass Guide today!