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Eye Care for Diabetic Patients

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease commonly caused by diabetes. It occurs as high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina. The affected blood vessels can either become swollen and start leaking or can become blocked, causing new abnormal, non-functional blood vessels to grow in the retina. This can cause vision loss in diabetic patients. There are two types of diabetic retinopathy. Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is considered the early stage of diabetic retinopathy. With NPDR, blood vessels in the retina leak, causing the retina to swell. Swelling in specific areas of the retina, such as the macula, is called macular edema. This is the most common way people with diabetes lose their vision. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the more advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. This occurs when the retina begins growing new abnormal blood vessels to “replace” the malfunctioning damaged blood vessels. Although this seems like an elegant solution, these new vessels tend to leak as they have weak scaffolding. They can leak into surrounding tissues or at times into the vitreous (gel-like substance in the center of the eye). Blood initially pools in the vitreous and later contracts, pulling on the retina, which can lead to a retinal detachment.

A side view of the eye with and without diabetic retinopathy

A person with early-stage diabetic retinopathy may not experience symptoms, which is why it is important to regularly see an optometrist if you are diagnosed with diabetes. Symptoms of the later stages of diabetic retinopathy can include blurry or double vision, pain or pressure in one or both eyes, flashing lights, dark or floating spots, or blank spots in vision. If you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it is recommended that you schedule an eye exam with an optometrist within five years of being diagnosed. If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment as soon as you are diagnosed regardless of age. If you are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, it is recommended that you get a comprehensive dilated eye exam quarterly, semi-annually, or annually depending on the severity.

There are multiple treatments for diabetic retinopathy. Taking action early is the best way to keep diabetic retinopathy from progressing. If you have mild diabetic retinopathy, medication or treatment may not be needed immediately. In this case, it is important to manage your diabetes and have good blood sugar control to slow the progression. If you have advanced diabetic retinopathy, there are treatments to consider depending on the underlying causes. Anti-VEGF drugs are medications that are injected with topical anesthesia to reduce/eliminate the growth of new leaky blood vessels. Laser photocoagulation is another treatment for diabetic retinopathy. This is a focal laser treatment that can be done in a doctor's office with only one session. This treatment uses a focal laser to slow or stop blood and fluid from leaking into the eye by laser burning abnormal blood vessels.

Preventative care is always the most effective treatment. Remember to schedule your yearly comprehensive eye examination. Contact us by calling (407) 801-2477 or visit us online at



Boyd, Kierstan. “Diabetic Retinopathy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 23 May 2024, 

Sachdeva, Mira. “Diabetic Retinopathy.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 13 June 2022, ~:text=In%20the%20early%20stages%20of,blank%20spots%20in%20your%20vision. 

Mukamal, Reena. “How Diabetes Affects Your Eye Care.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 23 May 2024, 

“Diabetic Retinopathy.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 

“Diabetic Retinopathy.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 

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