Diabetic Retinopathy - The Facts


Diabetic Retinopathy affects your sight by damaging the small blood vessels at the back of your eye.

  • Diabetic retinopathy progesses with time but may not cause symptoms until it is advanced.
  • Looking after your diabetes can reduce the risk of you developing diabetic retinopathy and slow the rate at which it happens.
  • Laser treatment for sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy can reduce the risk of you losing your sight.


What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

When diabetes affects the small blood vessels in the part of your eye called the retina, this is known as diabetic retinopathy.

The "retina" lines the inside of the eye and acts rather like the film in a camera helping to develop an image. The "macula" is the small central part of the retina you use to see things clearly and is the part you will be using to read this information. You use the rest of your retina to see things around you and to see in the dark.


eye (cross section)

Blood vessels bring oxygen and nourishment to your retina. These blood vessels may be damaged in a number of ways if you have diabetes. Severe changes to the retinal blood vessels will affect the health of your retina and this can damage your sight.


Why is Diabetic Retinopathy important?  

  • Diabetic Retinopathy can affect your sight and is still a significant cause of blindness in the working population.
  • Laser treatment for sight-threatening retinopathy reduces the risk of you losing your sight but needs to be given at the appropriate stage and ideally before your vision has been affected.


Who gets Diabetic Retinopathy?

All people with diabetes are at some risk of getting Diabetic Retinopathy. This is the case in both Type 1 and Type 2  and whether your diabetes is controlled by diet, tablets or insulin. You are at greater risk if:

  • you have had your diabetes for a long time;
  • your diabetes is poorly controlled;
  • you have high blood pressure;
  • you are on insulin treatment.


How will I know if I have Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic Retinopathy does not usually cause a loss of sight until it has reached an advanced stage. Even retinopathy in it's advance stage may not cause any symptoms.

Diabetic Retinopathy is detected by examining the back of your eyes to look at the retina. This should be undertaken by a healthcare professional as part of the Diabetic Eye Screening Service at least once a year. This would be done by taking photographs of the back of your eye.

For more information on what the examination entails please read our section labelled  Diabetic Eye Screening - The Examination.

You must get professional advice if you have any new problem with your sight.


"DO's and DON'Ts"

Diabetic Retinopathy can get worse over time, but the following measures can help you to reduce your risks of developing Diabetic Retinopathy and to slow the progress of sight-threatening retinopathy:

  • Control your blood glucose (blood sugar) as effectively as possible.
  • See your doctor regularly to check that your blood pressure is not raised.
  • Keep your regular diabetic eye screening appointment.
  • Visit your opticians for regular routine check-ups.
  • Get professional advice immediately if you experience any problems with your sight.

For your eyes and general health, you should also have your cholesterol levels checked regulary and refrain from smoking.


If you would like any further information then please contact us:

Gloucestershire Diabetic Eye Screening Service
Orchard Centre
Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
Great Western Road

Tel : 0300 422 2173/2216