Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes affects an estimated 1.7 million Australians. Of those, around 72,000 people experience Diabetic retinopathy and approximately 3 in 5 people report poor sight. Diabetes is a leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia. Therefore, as a diabetes sufferer, it is important to keep on top of your optical health.

Diabetic retinopathy, also known as Diabetic eye disease, is one of the leading causes of blindness in the developed world, alongside glaucoma and macular degeneration. Diabetic Retinopathy occurs as a result of damage to and subsequent leakage of the blood vessels in the retina.

People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing the disease; with the risk increasing the longer you have diabetes. Poor blood sugar control, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase the risk of Diabetic retinopathy. Pregnancy is also an aggravating factor, so women who are expecting should get their eyes tested more often.

Unfortunately, there are no early-stage symptoms of Diabetic retinopathy and vision loss may not occur until the disease is advanced. However, to rule out any optical health issues and minimise the risk of vision loss caused by the disease, ensure you undergo regular eye examinations at a minimum of once a year.

Symptoms of Diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Headache or eye strain
  • Spots or strings in your vision (floaters)
  • Fluctuating, spotty or hazy vision
  • Empty areas in your vision
  • Impaired colour vision
  • Vision loss.

To prevent Diabetic retinopathy, there are a number of precautions you can take.

  1. Manage your diabetes effectively in conjunction with your doctor. This can help delay Diabetic changes in the eye and body.
  2. Have an eye test every year with your optometrist or ophthalmologist. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent severe vision loss.

Treatment for Diabetic retinopathy includes laser treatment to seal leaking blood vessels and surgery for particularly severe cases. Some medications can help to prevent abnormal blood vessels, known as anti-VEGF medicines and other medications, such as steroids may also be used. Diabetic retinopathy can also be treated by ongoing management of blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure.


The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and should be used as a guide only. This information does not replace or substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before any action is taken based on the content of this webpage.

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