Diabetic Retinopathy: Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes-Related Vision Loss

December 19, 2023


Diabetes is a fairly common, long-lasting health condition that occurs when your blood sugar is too high. This develops when the pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin, or any at all. According to the CDC, about 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure your condition is controlled, as well as be aware of possible complications such as diabetic retinopathy. Read on to learn more about diabetic retinopathy and the available treatment options.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Individuals with diabetes may develop an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. This occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina.

As diabetic retinopathy advances over time, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Blurry vision
  • Vision that fluctuates between clear and blurry
  • Seeing dark areas in the field of vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Colors that appear faded
  • Loss of vision

The Stages of Diabetic Eye Disease

There are two main stages of diabetic eye disease, including the following.

Early Stage

Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) is the early stage and causes blurry vision. With NPDR, small blood vessels may leak, causing the retina to swell. When the macula swells it is known as macular edema. This is the most common cause of diabetic vision loss. With NPDR, blood vessels in the retina can also close off (called macular ischemia). When this occurs, blood cannot reach the macula.

Advanced Stage

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the most advanced stage. It occurs when the retina begins growing new blood vessels (neovascularization). These fresh vessels often bleed into the vitreous. Small amounts of bleeding can lead to floaters, while large amounts of bleeding may block vision. These new blood vessels can also lead to scar tissue formation, which can lead to issues with the macular or a detached retina. Overall, PDR is very serious and can cause loss of both central and peripheral vision.

Treatment Options

Treatment ultimately depends on what your ophthalmologist finds during diagnosis but may include the following.

Control Blood Sugar

Controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure may help to stop vision loss. In some cases, good sugar control can even bring back some of your lost vision. Be sure to follow the diet your doctor has recommended.


Medication may also be recommended, including anti-VEGF medications. These medications reduce swelling of the macula to slow vision loss and sometimes improve vision. Steroid medications may also be used to reduce macular swelling. 

Schedule a Consultation

Our team of skilled providers is dedicated to providing a personalized approach to eye care. We offer cutting-edge treatments and approaches for all your vision needs for optimal results. For more information regarding diabetic retinopathy diagnosis and treatment, please contact Anh Nguyen Ophthalmology in Falls Church, VA today to schedule an appointment.


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