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What is it? 

A complication of diabetes that can cause damage to blood vessels in the retina at the back of your eyes. This can cause bleeding and swelling, leading to partial or even complete loss of vision. 

Simulation image of how diabetic retinopathy affects vision, with dark spots covering most of the image
Simulation image of how diabetic retinopathy affects vision, with dark spots covering most of the image

  • Diabetic retinopathy can occur without symptoms in the early stages
  • Fluctuating vision – can occur due to fluctuating blood glucose levels
  • Patchy field loss due to scars caused by damaged blood vessels
  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light and glare
  • Floaters - Diabetic retinopathy can stimulate the growth of scar tissue, which can pull the retina away from the back of the eye

It’s important to have your vision checked often if you have diabetes. This is especially so if you have high blood pressure, a high blood sugar level or a long history of diabetes. If you experience any changes to your vision,  see an optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as you can.

There are treatments that can minimise vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy. These include laser, injections and surgical procedures. Early intervention can be critical for the best outcome. 

A key to avoiding this condition is to make sure you manage your diabetes.

How it can affect your life

Patchy vision means that driving can become an issue. Many people face an increased risk of falls when walking. 

You may have trouble reading and watching television. You can find it more difficult to see in circumstances where there is significant glare. 

Being diagnosed with an eye condition doesn’t mean you need to stop living life on your terms. That’s where Vision Australia can help. 

We’ll work with you, providing support and products to help you take the next steps with confidence. 

Download a guide

Diabetic retinopathy guide

Fact sheet summary to print or download. 

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