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Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that occurs as a fairly common complication of diabetes: it is estimated to affect about 1 in 3 people with diabetes.

High blood glucose levels impair the capillaries in the retina, which undergo a degenerative process: this leads to a series of alterations that eventually have a negative impact on the subject’s ability to see.

The main cause of diabetic retinopathy is poorly controlled diabetes. Retinopathy is a progressive disease, which starts slowly, causing some treatable complaints, but over time leads to irreparable damage: in the most extreme cases it can even lead to blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy can affect one or both eyes and is classified into two main forms: non-proliferative retinopathy (when the disease is at an early stage) or proliferative retinopathy (when the retinopathy is in its most advanced and dangerous stage, and can even cause retinal detachment). Macular oedema may also occur, i.e. fluid in the macula, the part of the retina most important for visual function.

Although diabetic retinopathy does not manifest any specific symptoms at an early stage, the following symptoms may occur over time:

  • blurred vision;
  • difficulty in distinguishing colours;
  • decreased night vision;
  • appearance of myodesopsias (“floaters”) in the vision;
  • dark halos in the field of vision.

The best way to combat diabetic retinopathy is prevention, combined with regular check-ups. People with diabetes should make sure to follow their medication correctly, keep their blood sugar levels under control, and remember to have regular eye examinations to assess the function of the ocular fundus.

Diabec-en Retinopatia-diabetica-en
Pathology image


The diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is made by a medical specialist, the ophthalmologist, following a check-up and after a careful analysis of the ocular fundus by means of specific examinations, such as fluorangiography, optical coherence tomography (OCT) and retinography.

It is important to bear in mind that, since it is a progressive disease, it is essential to diagnose diabetic retinopathy as early as possible to allow better management of the condition and prevent associated complications.


The treatment of diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the stage of the disease and the individual’s general health.
The first essential treatment is careful blood glucose control, without which any treatment is only temporary. The ophthalmologist may also prescribe supplements whose ingredients have properties known to slow the progression or accelerate the repair of some of the changes induced in the retina by diabetes.

Should these occur, the specialist may prescribe one or more sessions of photocoagulation retinal laser therapy or intravitreal injections of specific drugs. In the case of retinal detachment, however, the treatment is usually a vitrectomy.