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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition involving changes to the blood vessels of the retina. It is a complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness in adults. However, with careful management by an ophthalmologist you can take steps to prevent vision loss or, in some cases, improve your sight.

Diabetic retinopathy can occur if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Your chances of developing the disease increase when you have had diabetes for a long time or your glucose (blood sugar) is not well controlled.

You might not have symptoms, especially at first. Later, symptoms can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Floaters (spots in your field of view)
  • Shadows
  • Reduced night vision

The retina is a layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that is important to your eyesight. The earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy is described as “nonproliferative” and involves damaged blood vessels leaking fluid and tiny amounts of blood. You can experience vision problems because of swelling from the fluid (macular edema) or because vessels close and limit blood supply to a crucial part of the eye (macular ischemia).

A later stage of the disease is called “proliferative” diabetic retinopathy and involves growth of new, abnormal blood vessels as your body tries to replace the ones that have closed. Bleeding and scar tissue can reduce your vision and damage your eyes in several ways, such as blocking light or causing your retina to wrinkle and move from its normal position.

Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can help preserve your vision. If you have diabetes, a comprehensive eye examination by an ophthalmologist at least once a year will catch the first signs of this condition. At Indiana University Health, we offer treatment options for all stages and types of diabetic retinopathy to make your eyesight the best it can be.

We develop an individualized treatment plan with the goal of preventing or slowing vision loss. Depending on the type of damage you have, some treatment methods may help you see better, although diabetic retinopathy is not curable and vision loss is often not reversible.

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you may not need treatment. However, controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol can help keep the condition from getting worse.

Our ophthalmologists maintain access to the most innovative diagnostic and treatment options for diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, as part of the Indiana University School of Medicine, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute is a leading eye health research center. Our faculty members are constantly seeking new ways to detect and manage diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions.

Additionally, we help to prepare tomorrow’s physicians through residency and fellowship programs. We have trained more than half of the ophthalmologists currently practicing in Indiana.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment Information

We use a variety of treatment approaches for diabetic retinopathy. The right plan for you depends on your specific symptoms, concerns and preferences. Options include:

Diabetic Retinopathy Locations & Physicians

Use the search options below to find treatments available in your area. 

Find a Specialist

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Diabetic Retinopathy Support Services

The more you know about diabetic retinopathy, the more effectively you can manage it with your ophthalmologist. These sites include information and resources: