Causes of sight loss: Diabetic Retinopathy

Posted: 11/04/2016 |

In the second of our series of blogs on the different causes of sight loss we explain Diabetic Retinopathy - vision loss as a consequence of diabetes. 


Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes where damage is caused to the retina – the light sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of sight loss among people of working age in the UK and can cause permanent blindness is not diagnosed and treated promptly.

Causes of diabetic retinopathy 

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels. Anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. 

People who are most at risk of developing the condition include people who have had diabetes for a long time, have persistently high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are pregnant or of Asian or Afro-Caribbean background. 

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy 

Diabetic retinopathy can be symptomless in its early stages, however early signs can be picked up by diabetic eye screening which is offered to people with diabetes aged over 12 once per year.. Royal Blind has research into this screening process. Symptoms can include;  

  • Patchy vision

  • Eye pain 

  • Eye redness 

  • Gradual worsening vision 

  • Sudden vision loss 

  • Shapes floating in your field of vision 


Reducing risk 

If you are diabetic, you can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by taking a number of steps; 

  • Maintaining a healthy weight 

  • Having a balanced and healthy diet 

  • Stopping smoking 

  • Taking diabetes medication as prescribed 

  • Attending all screening appointments 

  • Seeking medical assistance if you experience changes in your vision 

  • Controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels 


If diabetic retinopathy reaches a point where it puts a patient’s sight at risk it can be treated by injections of medications into the eye, laser treatment or an operation to remove blood or scar tissue from the eyes. 

If you have diabetes and are concerned about your vision, contact your GP immediately.