The Blood Sugar in Your Vision: Stages and Treatments of Diabetic Retinopathy

People with high sugar level or diabetes are prone to eye problems such as diabetic retinopathy. High sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye that can cause blurry vision or even vision loss.

It is essential that people who have diabetes get annual eye exams from an ophthalmologist to detect diabetic retinopathy before reaching the advanced stage. You may already have DR before you even notice any visual problems.

This eye disease can affect your vision depends on its stage. With that, here are the two main stages of diabetic retinopathy you might experience.

  • Nonproliferative Retinopathy. Nonproliferative retinopathy comes to the earliest phase of diabetic retinopathy and is not a sight-threatening condition. It is where Microaneurysms in the blood vessels may leak into the retina that can cause swelling of the macula. Non-proliferative will develop from mild to moderate to severe.
  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy. PDR is a sight-threatening phase of this diabetic disease. In this stage, the retinal blood vessels are blocked and damaged. It results in a newly generated blood vessels that grow in the eye. Unfortunately, these newly generated blood vessels are abnormal and may go into the retina that can block the vision.


Treatments of diabetic retinopathy will depend on the stage of your eye condition and how severe it is. It is necessary to seek for medical consultation from your doctor and ophthalmologist before you undergo eye treatments and surgery.

You can also search for websites like and other sites about diabetes and eye problems to learn more about your condition. Depends on the stage of diabetic retinopathy, here are some treatments that can prevent eye damage due to diabetes.

Medical Control

For the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, controlling the blood sugar and blood pressure is the most common treatment to stop the progress of the disease and avoid vision loss. If you have diabetes, you need to follow the diet recommended by your nutritionist to maintain sugar levels.

Take the prescribed medicine from your medical doctor to manage your blood sugar.  Controlling your blood pressure and sugar level can prevent the risks of diabetes including diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems.

Photocoagulation or Focal Laser Treatment

Photocoagulation is a laser treatment for an advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy which can stop or slow the leakage of fluid and blood in the eyes. This treatment is using laser burns to treat the leaks from the abnormal blood vessels that grow in the retina.

If you have blurred eyesight from macular edema before surgery, you might not recover your normal vision through this treatment, but it will reduce the risk of macular edema.

Panretinal Photocoagulation or Scatter laser Treatment

Panretinal Photocoagulation is also a laser treatment for proliferative diabetic retinopathy. This treatment is using scattered laser burns on the area of the retina away from the macula. This laser will destroy the dead areas of the retina where the blood vessels are blocked. After the treatment, the retina will stop the production of new blood vessels.

You will experience blurred vision for about a day after the procedure.


Vitrectomy is a treatment for an advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy which uses a tiny incision in your eye to remove blood from the vitreous as well as the scar tissue in the retina.


Treatments of diabetic retinopathy should involve both an ophthalmologist and a medical doctor. Your medical doctor will help you control your blood sugar and can treat complications on diabetes that may worsen your eye problem. An ophthalmologist will determine the stage of your diabetic retinopathy and will give you the proper treatment for your eye condition.

Even after the treatment for diabetic retinopathy, you need to have regular eye exams. Diabetes is a lifelong condition. There are still possibilities that you will have retinal damage if you cannot control your blood sugar level.

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images is republished with permission.

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