Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy is an eye condition that occurs when the blood vessels of the retina become damaged due to diabetes. The complication develops in those with type 1 and 2 diabetes. The likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy increases the longer you have diabetes, and the less controlled your blood sugar levels are. 

There are two types of this condition: Early Diabetic Retinopathy and Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy.

Early Diabetic Retinopathy

This is also known as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) and is the most common form. The walls of the blood vessels in your retina begin to weaken. Tiny bulges can protrude from these walls and may leak fluid and blood into the retina. The larger vessels that supply blood into your vitreous humor may dilate and become more irregular in diameter as well. This condition worsens as blood vessels get progressively blocked. 

If you have a buildup of fluid in the center portion of your retina it can lead to vision loss. The retinal blood vessel damage that can cause macular edema is sometimes reversible and such instances should be monitored closely by the professional specialist/doctor who has recommended treatment.

Advanced Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy can progress to a more severe stage, called proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this type, the damaged blood vessels close off, growing new ones in their place. The new vessels are fragile and can start to leak fluid or blood into the clear, gel-like substance that fills the centre of your eye (vitreous), resulting in vision loss.

Scar tissue can form because of the growth of these blood cells. This can cause a tear in your retina and detach it from the back of your eye. When there is a tear in the retina, most patients’ intraocular pressure — or eye pressure — increases significantly. If the flow of fluid out of your eyeball is impaired, pressure inside your eyeball can build up and damage your optic nerve. This damage can result in glaucoma.


Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can take a while to develop and be noticed.

The common symptoms include:

  • Floaters – strings or spots floating in your vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Fluctuating vision 
  • Dark or empty spots in the vision
  • Vision loss

Causes of Diabetic Retinopathy

Too much sugar in your blood over a sustained period of time can lead to the blockage or narrowing of tiny blood vessels that help supply the retina, which is the site where signals from the eye are processed. New blood vessels grow to replace the blocked ones but are not as strong and can easily break and leak into your eye. 

Risk Factors of Diabetic Retinopathy

Acupuncture for diabetic retinopathy

Diabetes is the leading risk factor for this condition, other eye condition risks include:

  • Diabetes for a long amount of time
  • Poor control of your blood sugar levels
  • High blood sugar
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy
  • Tobacco use
  • African american hispanic or native descent


Complications can be caused by progression of the condition, such as:

  • Vitreous hemorrhage
  • Retinal detachment
  • Glaucoma
  • Blindness

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To understand more about this condition you can contact us at Centre of Balance on 07 846 7956 or email info@balancetcm.co.nz. We deal with patients who suffer from diabetic retinopathy, and can diagnose the condition and offer treatment through Traditional Chinese Medicine.