Diabetic Retinopathy

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes which results in damage in the tiny blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye.

Damage to these blood vessels can cause bleeding and swelling in the retina leading to problems with vision. In severe cases, retinopathy can lead to blindness. 1

Normal vision

Vision loss with progression of diabetic retinopathy

If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause severe and irreversible vision loss

All people with diabetes have an increased risk of retinopathy1,2 which is a major cause of vision loss and blindness in working age and older Australians.2

Almost everyone with type 1 diabetes and more than 60% of those with type 2 diabetes will develop some form of diabetic eye disease within 20 years of diagnosis.2

The good news

98%
of severe visual impairment can be prevented by early detection and treatment. 5

This is the reason a regular eye examination is critical for all people with diabetes. 2

  • Everybody who is diagnosed with diabetes should have an examination by a specialist eye care provider when they are first diagnosed with diabetes.
  • All people with diabetes should be examined by an eye health professional every 2 years.
  • Some people need to be examined more frequently, for example those with active retinopathy or poor blood glucose control, may need to be examined as often as every 3-6 months.

But this doesn’t always happen

3.1
YEARS
Can be the average delay between a diagnosis of diabetes and the first eye examination. 7
25% TO
50%
Of Australians with diabetes do not have eye examinations as often as they should. 2,3,8

What can you do?

Be mindful of your sight. If you become aware of any of the following visual symptoms, 1 report them to your doctor immediately.

  • Floaters (spots or dark strings)
  • Blurred vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Impaired colour vision
  • Dark or empty areas in vision
  • Vision loss

The value of regular eye examinations cannot be overstated 3 and yet up to 50% of Australians do not have their eyes checked at the recommended frequency: 3,8

  1. If you have diabetes and you have not had your eyes examined by an eye specialist in the past two years, or you don’t know how often you need to have your eyes examined, ask your doctor for a referral.
  2. If your doctor refers you to an eye specialist for an eye test, have the test. If you forgot to have your eye test, you should tell your doctor.