Diabetic retinopathy is a condition occurring in persons with diabetes, which causes progressive
damage to the retina, the light sensitive lining at the back of the eye. It is a serious sight-threatening
complication of diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina.
They leak blood and other fluids that cause swelling of retinal tissue and clouding of vision. The
condition usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will
develop diabetic retinopathy. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
• Seeing spots or floaters in your field of vision
• Blurred vision
• Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
• Difficulty seeing well at night
Diabetic retinopathy is classified into two types:
1. Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the early state of the disease in
which symptoms will be mild or non-existent. In NPDR, the blood vessels in the retina
are weakened causing tiny bulges called microanuerysms to protrude from their walls.
The microanuerysms may leak fluid into the retina, which may lead to swelling of the
2. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the more advanced form of the disease.
At this stage, circulation problems cause the retina to become oxygen deprived. As a
result new fragile blood vessels can begin to grow in the retina and into the vitreous, the
gel-like fluid that fills the back of the eye. The new blood vessel may leak blood into
the vitreous, clouding vision. Other complications of PDR include detachment of the
retina due to scar tissue formation and the development of glaucoma. Glaucoma is an
eye disease defined as progressive damage to the optic nerve. In cases of proliferative
diabetic retinopathy, the cause of this nerve damage is due to extremely high pressure in
the eye. If left untreated, proliferative diabetic retinopathy can cause severe vision loss
and even blindness.
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy depends on the stage of the disease and is directed at trying to
slow or stop the progression of the disease.
In the early stages of Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, treatment other than regular
monitoring may not be required. Following your doctor’s advice for diet and exercise and
keeping blood sugar levels well-controlled can help control the progression of the disease.
If the disease advances, leakage of fluid from blood vessels can lead to macular edema. Laser
treatment (photocoagulation) is used to stop the leakage of blood and fluid into the retina. A laser
beam of light can be used to create small burns in areas of the retina with abnormal blood vessels
to try to seal the leaks.