Eye Health

Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosis and Management
Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy: Symptoms & Treatment

Diabetes and vision are directly related. If you have diabetes, you need to be aware that having this systemic disease puts you at a greater risk of developing vision problems.

Diabetic retinopathy can have many effects on the eye and is one of the most common causes of blindness. Many cases of diabetic retinopathy could be prevented or minimized with regular eye exams and treatment.

What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?

Retinopathy is damage to the retina of the eye. To see, light must be able to pass easily through the front of the eye to focus on the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye – the ‘seeing’ part of the eye. A delicate blood vessel network supplies the retina with blood and nutrients. When these blood vessels become blocked, leaky or grow new vessels in response to higher blood sugar levels over time, the retina becomes damaged and is unable to work properly. The risk of diabetic complications in the eye increases with persistent high levels of glucose. To reduce the risk of vision impairment, blood glucose, blood pressure and blood fats need to be kept within the normal range, which should be managed by you and your healthcare team. The aim of your diabetic treatment combined with a healthy lifestyle is to achieve these targets & preserve your vision. At Vue Vision, our doctors collaborate with your health care providers to ensure the best possible outcome for your overall general health and vision. Smoking also plays a part in eye damage. If you do smoke, stopping will be extremely helpful. Anyone with diabetes should have the retina of their eyes dilated and examined yearly to check for retinopathy. If you are being treated for diabetes, OHIP will pay for a yearly dilated retinal exam at our clinics.

Effects of High Blood Glucose in the blood stream:

High blood glucose levels are the main cause of diabetic retinopathy, but high levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure also contribute. To help prevent eye problems from developing or existing problems from worsening it is important to:

Try to keep blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure within normal ranges. These target ranges will be set by your diabetic specialist.
Tell your doctor if you notice any changes in your vision immediately (do not wait until your next screening appointment).
Take your medication as prescribed.
If you are overweight, try to lose excess weight.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
If you smoke, it’s important to try to quit or reduce the amount consumed daily.
Attend your annual eye screening appointment and take part in advanced testing. Since retinopathy frequently has no symptoms until it is well advanced, you may not be aware of any changes to the retina until your vision has been impaired. Annual retinal screening will detect retinopathy early, and therefore increase the chances of minimal and more effective treatment.

Diabetic Eye Symptoms

There are a number of diabetic symptoms to watch for, including:

Fluctuation in visual clarity
Blurriness and/or distortion in vision
Eye pain
Cataracts (cloudy vision/loss of colour richness/glare)
Reduced healing after eye injuries

Prevention of Diabetic Retinopathy

People with diabetes can take several steps beside controlling their blood sugars to minimize problems associated with diabetic retinopathy. First and foremost, an annual diabetic eye exam where the pupils are dilated will provide an optimal view of the back of the eye where the retina is located. In addition to leaky blood vessels, we look for other signs of damage, such as swelling, deposits in the retina and neovascularization. With advancements in technology, our office now provides cutting edge technology giving our patients access to advanced testing such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) retinal scans, which can be performed to analyze retinal tissue for leakage beyond what is visible to the eye. Small leaks beneath the surface of the retina can be hidden from view during your annual eye exam and remain undetected. The OCT scan allows our doctors to see these leaks and refer you to surgery by a retinal specialist before the small problems progress to more serious complications. The OCT scan is not covered by OHIP, but we only charge a nominal fee for this scan as we care for your eyes. Currently, we have the latest OCT scans and digital retinal photography available allowing the slightest change in your retina to be apparent and documented. You can learn more about OCT scans on our advanced technology page.


We will make every effort to accommodate patients with red eyes, painful eyes, ocular foreign bodies, sudden vision changes, sudden floaters or flashes of light. Please call our office to book an appointment as we dedicate certain appointments only for ocular emergencies.

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