Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of uncontrolled diabetes and consistently high blood sugar over several years, resulting in retinal disease, which can interfere with its ability to transmit images to the brain through the optic nerve.

Blood vessels in the retina play an important role in supplying it with oxygen and nutrients, which keep it healthy and working effectively.

Diabetic Retinopathy can result in damage to the blood vessels; these may then bleed, leak or become blocked leading to cell damage in the retina itself.

There are varying forms and levels of severity of diabetic retinopathy – for example, when the retina becomes damaged, new blood vessels may grow on it and can burst, leading to bleeding and blurred vision. If the macula (the central area of the retina) is affected – this is called Diabetic Maculopathy – the disease has reached a much more advanced and serious stage.

High blood pressure combined with diabetes leads to an even more dangerous condition.

Types of Diabetic Retinopathy

  • Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
    Generally, this type of diabetic retinopathy does not affect vision because at the initial stage there are just a few enlarged blood vessels, with very minimal bleeding and leaking in the retina.
    An examination of the retina by an ophthalmologist will reveal some marks indicating the presence of the condition.
  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
    This condition can lead to seriously impaired vision as blood vessels grow in the retina and the threat is bleeding from these vessels which can lead to retinal damage, and even to retinal detachment at the back of the eye. Laser treatment is essential to avoid serious long-term damage.
  • Diabetic Maculopathy
    Diabetic maculopathy occurs when blood vessels leak into the central area of the retina, which can cause swelling of the macula and affecting the quality of vision. Laser procedures, injections or surgery are the main treatment options.


Many diabetics, particularly those with poor control over diabetes that results in elevated blood sugar levels over long periods of time, have damaged blood vessels in the retina, the tissue lining the back of the eye that detects light and allows us to see. This results in a condition called diabetic retinopathy, which affects 8 out of 10 patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or longer.


  • Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters)
  • Blurred vision.
  • Fluctuating vision.
  • Impaired color vision.
  • Dark or empty areas in your vision.
  • Vision loss.


Different treatment options are available, and sometimes a combination of the possible treatments is used. These include intravitreal injection of medications (anti VEGF and or steroids), conventional peripheral laser, subthreshold micropulse laser. In more advanced cases, with prolipherative retinopathy or with intravitreal haemorrhages, surgery may be the only possible option. 

Early diagnosis of the complications of diabetes generally leads to better management and better outcomes, and that is why it is vitally important to get regular eye screenings.