Diabetic Retinopathy: Causes and Treatments


Diabetes can have numerous complications, one of which is diabetic retinopathy. This serious eye condition affects the blood vessels in the retina, leading to vision impairment and even blindness if left untreated. In this blog post, we’ll delve into what diabetic retinopathy is, its causes, symptoms, stages, and the various treatments available to manage and prevent this condition.

Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This damage can cause the blood vessels to leak fluid or bleed, leading to vision problems.

How Does Diabetes Affect the Eyes?

High blood sugar levels can lead to the blockage of tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, cutting off its blood supply. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels, which do not develop properly and can leak easily. This can cause vision issues and, if not managed, can result in severe vision loss.

Causes and Risk Factors

Primary Causes

The primary cause of diabetic retinopathy is prolonged periods of high blood sugar levels. Poorly managed diabetes increases the risk of developing this condition.

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy, including:

  • Duration of Diabetes: The longer you have diabetes, the greater your risk.
  • Poor Blood Sugar Control: Consistently high blood sugar levels elevate the risk.
  • High Blood Pressure: Hypertension can worsen diabetic retinopathy.
  • High Cholesterol Levels: Elevated cholesterol can contribute to blood vessel damage.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy can sometimes exacerbate diabetic retinopathy in diabetic women.
  • Tobacco Use: Smoking increases the risk of diabetic complications, including retinopathy.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy may not cause noticeable symptoms. However, as the condition progresses, you may experience:

  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Dark spots or floaters in your vision
  • Difficulty seeing colors
  • Poor night vision
  • Sudden vision loss

Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy progresses through four stages:

  1. Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy: Characterized by small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina’s tiny blood vessels.
  2. Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy: Progression of the disease where some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
  3. Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy: Many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina of their blood supply, leading to the growth of new blood vessels.
  4. Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR): The most advanced stage where new, abnormal blood vessels grow, which can leak blood, causing severe vision loss and possibly blindness.

Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy

1. Control Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol

The most effective way to manage diabetic retinopathy is by controlling diabetes through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication. Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check is also crucial.

2. Medical Treatments

  • Anti-VEGF Injections: Medications such as ranibizumab (Lucentis), aflibercept (Eylea), and bevacizumab (Avastin) can help reduce swelling of the macula, slow the progression of the disease, and improve vision.
  • Steroid Injections: In some cases, corticosteroids are injected into the eye to reduce inflammation and swelling.

3. Laser Treatment (Photocoagulation)

Laser treatment can seal off leaking blood vessels and reduce retinal swelling. There are two types:

  • Focal Laser Treatment: Targets specific leaking blood vessels in a limited area.
  • Scatter Laser Treatment: Treats larger areas of the retina to shrink abnormal blood vessels.

4. Vitrectomy

In advanced cases, a vitrectomy may be necessary. This surgical procedure involves removing the vitreous gel that is pulling on the retina and replacing it with a clear solution to improve vision.


Preventing diabetic retinopathy involves managing diabetes effectively and having regular eye exams. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: Keep your blood sugar levels within your target range.
  • Regular Eye Exams: Schedule annual comprehensive eye exams, even if your vision seems fine.
  • Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels: Work with your healthcare provider to keep these levels under control.
  • Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking.


Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to vision loss if not managed properly. Understanding its causes, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking appropriate treatment can help preserve your vision. At Vaga Hospital, our Ophthalmology department is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for patients with diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes or experience any vision changes, contact us to schedule an eye exam.

Call to Action: To learn more about diabetic retinopathy or to schedule an appointment with one of our eye specialists, please call us at 6391000030, 31.