Find a Doctor
Browse UPMC doctors and medical professionals to find the care that's right for you. Customize your search by specialty, zip code, last name, and more.
Visit the UPMC Find a Doctor website.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that results from a loss of blood flow and oxygen to the retina. The retina is located in the back of the eye. It collects light and turns it into a signal that is interpreted by the brain as vision.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the retina does not receive enough blood because the vessels in the retina are damaged by high blood sugar.
This condition can lead to a range of problems ranging from a minor leakage of blood and plasma in the retina to total blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults, and it usually affects both eyes.
There are two kinds of diabetic retinopathy:
Diabetic retinopathy occurs in about 40 percent of all Type 1 diabetics and 20 percent of all Type 2 diabetics. The length of time a person has diabetes is a risk factor for the condition. Other risk factors include:
Keeping your blood sugar at the right level can greatly reduce the chance of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy needs to be detected as early as possible. People with this condition may experience few, if any, symptoms. The retina is delicate and once injured cannot always completely heal.
Anyone with diabetes should have an eye exam at least once a year. In order to diagnose diabetic retinopathy, your ophthalmologist will give you a complete eye exam. Your doctor also will discuss your medical history, including the medicines you are taking, so bring a complete lis t of your medicines as well as any recent test results to your appointment.
Once a diagnosis has been made and the degree of the retinopathy is determined, the ophthalmologist will create a personalized treatment plan. This plan can range from careful observation to laser treatments.
Newer treatments include the injection of steroids directly into the eye but the relief is usually temporary, and steroids can cause glaucoma and cataracts in some patients.
Other treatments for diabetic retinopathy include: