Diabetic Retinopathy

Michigan Eyecare Institute: Diabetic Retinopathy

Those who have spent time in the healthcare field likely have seen the rapid growth of individuals with diabetes. Those who have been diagnosed with diabetes need to make sure that they keep their glucose and insulin under control. There are a few common complications of diabetes including kidney problems, nerve issues, and diabetic retinopathy. This eye disease can result from poor diabetic control and can cause someone to lose their vision. Because of this, it is important for everyone to understand the basics of diabetic retinopathy and how it might impact their vision. The educated team from the Michigan Eyecare Institute is here to make sure that everyone in the Southfield, Livonia, and Dearborn areas have access to an experienced eye doctor. 


Throughout the past few years, we have seen a rapid growth of people diagnosed with diabetes. When diagnosed with diabetes, it is imperative to keep one's glucose and insulin under control. Typical complications of diabetes include problems with the kidneys, nerve issues, and diabetic retinopathy, a disease that can rob someone of their vision because of poor diabetic control. It is important for everyone to understand the basics of diabetic retinopathy and how it can impact one’s vision. There are two main stages of diabetic eye disease.  NPDR (Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy) and PDR (Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy). 

NPDR is the early stage of diabetic eye disease.  It is common for people with diabetes to have this. With NPDR, tiny blood vessels begin to leak, making the retina swell. When the macula begins to swell, it is commonly known as macular edema, the most common reason why people with diabetes lose their vision. Also with NPDR, blood vessels in the retina can close off, known as macular ischemia. When this happens, blood cannot reach the macula. Tiny particles known as exudates can form in the retina, affecting your vision as well.   

NPDR can also be a main reason for your vision being blurry. 

PDR is the more advanced stage of diabetic eye disease, when the retina begins growing new blood vessels, called neovascularization. These fragile new vessels often begin to bleed into the vitreous. These new blood vessels can begin to form scar tissue that can cause problems with the macular or lead to a detached retina. PDR is very serious, and can steal both central and peripheral vision.  

Diabetic Retinopathy Symptoms 

It is not uncommon for someone to have diabetic retinopathy, and not know it.  Oftentimes a patient does not experience any symptoms in its early stages. As the disease progresses, you may begin to experience symptoms like: 

  •  Experiencing an increasing number of floaters 
  •  Blurry vision 
  •  Vision changes that sometimes change from blurry to clear 
  •  Seeing missing or dark areas in your field of vision 
  •  Poor night vision 
  •  Noticing colors appearing faded or washed out 

Diabetic retinopathy symptoms commonly affect both eyes.   


Diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam, with emphasis on evaluating the retina and macula.   

Typically evaluation may include: 

  • Thorough patient medical history to determine difficulties with vision, diabetes, and other general health concerns that may affect your vision. 
  •  Visual acuity to determine effects on your central vision. 
  •  Evaluation of the ocular structures, including an evaluation of the retina through a dilated pupil. 
  •  Measuring the internal pressure of the eye. 
  •  Retinal photography 
  •  Fluorescein angiography to evaluate abnormal blood vessel growth.       


Treatment for diabetic retinopathy can change depending on the extent of the disease. Treatment can include laser surgery to seal leaking blood vessels or to discourage other blood vessels from leaking. Injections are also commonly used to decrease inflammation or stop the formation of new blood vessels. Patients with advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy may need a surgical procedure to remove and replace the gel-like fluid in the back of the eye, called the vitreous. Surgery is also needed to repair retinal detachments, a separation of the light-receiving lining in the back of the eye.     

If you are diabetic, there are preventive measures you can take to help prevent or slow the development and progression of diabetic retinopathy by: 

  •  Taking any and all prescribed medication. 
  •  Sticking to your diet. 
  •  Exercising regularly. 
  •  Controlling high blood pressure. 
  •  Avoiding alcohol and smoking.

How Does Diabetic Retinopathy Develop?

When someone develops diabetes, they are at risk of developing a complication called diabetic retinopathy. This condition develops when the average glucose level in the blood is too high. This glucose can damage the blood vessels that supply the eyes, leading to damage to the retina. When this happens, individuals might start to notice dark spots in their visual field or blurry vision overall. In this case, individuals need to visit the eye doctor to have their eyes checked. Experienced ophthalmologists can help people control their diabetes and maintain their vision.

How is This Complication Treated?

When someone is trying to prevent diabetic retinopathy, the best way to do so is to keep their diabetes under control. We understand that this isn't always the case which is why individuals need to work with our team and have their eyes checked regularly. When diabetic retinopathy starts to progress to the point of damaging vision, it is also possible to have eye surgery to try to preserve the working areas of the retina. This can help fix some of the dark spots and blurry vision that people are familiar with. This surgery is handled on a case by case basis.

Trust the Optometrists at the Michigan Eyecare Institute

It is important for everyone with diabetes to make sure that they keep their sugar under control. This is will help preserve their vision. Those who have questions or concerns about their eye care need to contact the Michigan Eyecare Institute today to learn more about our services. We have a group of trained ophthalmologists who can help individuals with diabetes maintain their vision into their later years. Our optometrists are here to educate everyone in the Southfield, Livonia, and Dearborn areas on the importance of diabetic eye care and eye surgery. Please call us today at 248-352-2806 to schedule an appointment. We are here to help you and your family!

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