Diabetic Retinopathy

Below we explain what Diabetic Retinopathy is, who is affected by it, what causes it, what the symptoms are, and any available treatment options.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. Retinopathy affects the blood vessels supplying the retina. Blood vessels in the retina can become blocked, leaky or grow haphazardly. This damages the retina and, if left untreated, can damage vision.

Risk factors

  • duration of diabetes
  • high blood glucose levels
  • high blood pressure


During the initial stages, diabetic retinopathy does not cause any symptoms, but if left untreated will result in loss of vision. Late symptoms can include:

  • dark streaks, dots or patched appearing, sometimes blocking vision
  • blurred vision
  • poor night vision, difficulty adjusting to bright or dim light
  • sudden loss of vision
Canal Street as seen by someone with diabetic retinopathy
Media City as seen by someone with diabetic retinopathy

Canal Street and Media City as seen by someone who has Diabetic Retinopathy


Current guidelines recommend that all people aged 12 and over with diabetics should be referred for retinal screening at diagnosis and then annually. Contact your GP if you think that you are overdue. During screening, eye drops are used to make your pupils large and your retina will be examined and may be photographed.

You can read more about Diabetic Screening on the NHS website here.


Treatment options vary according to the stage in the condition you have reached. Laser treatment may be offered which aims to save the sight you have – not to restore any sight loss. The laser can be focused with extreme precision so blood vessels that are leaking fluid into the retina can be sealed. This is carried out on an outpatient basis and is usually painless. Screening and prevention are the best ways to prevent to prevent future loss of vision.


This information can be made available in Braille, or audio CD should you require it, from manchester@henshaws.org.uk

Explore our other pages on eye conditions

Retinitis pigmentosa | Cataracts | Charles Bonnet Syndrome | Chronic Glaucoma | Nystagmus | Macular degeneration | Hemianopia


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