Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that can increase your risk of many health conditions, including those related to the eye. ​ Fortunately, our doctor, Dr. David Antonyan, has been trained and specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients with Diabetes. Whether you need a yearly dilated diabetic exam or a consultation regarding your unstable vision changes, rest assured, you will be taken care of.

🔴What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that causes higher-than-normal blood sugars. The sugar in your blood comes from the food you eat and is meant to serve as a source of energy for the cells in your body.

If the sugar can’t get into the cell, it remains in your blood and damages your blood vessels and organs. Your retina contains tiny blood vessels that are highly susceptible to blood sugar damage, which may cause blood to leak into your eye. The increase in blood and fluids may affect eye pressure and increase your risk for glaucoma.

🔴How does Diabetes affect the eye?

After diabetes has been present for some years, changes may occur at the back of the eye in the retina, known as diabetic retinopathy. There are two main types of this condition: non-proliferative (sometimes called background) retinopathy and proliferative retinopathy. The risk of developing retinopathy increases with the length of time you have had diabetes and is also increased when blood glucose levels are not well controlled over time.


Increased glucose concentration in the blood affects the circulatory system in diabetics. Initially this causes the small vessels in the retina to become weak, which can lead to small bulges in the vessels called microaneurysms, or the vessels can leak causing haemorrhages and exudates (collections of lipid residues). This is termed non-proliferative retinopathy. These leaks can cause swelling of the retina, and if this occurs in the macula (responsible for perceiving sharp detail), it can affect the quality of your vision. Occasionally a swelling of the retina may cause hazy vision or straight lines to appear bent. Your optometrist may instruct you in a simple procedure to carry out at home so that you can test your eyes for this condition. Improvements in diabetic control and co-morbidities such as blood pressure and cholesterol can help resolve these changes. Sometimes a focal laser treatment is needed to close off very leaky vessels.


Proliferative changes occur if areas of the retina become starved of oxygen. This leads to fragile new blood vessels growing to resupply the starved tissue. Unfortunately these vessels leak easily and can bleed, causing sudden vision loss. If these new vessels scar and constrict they can pull on the retina and lead to a retinal detachment. Patients may need a procedure where laser burns are used to kill off some of the less-important peripheral retina if the vessels are very leaky. This decreases the oxygen demand of the central retina and helps prevents further changes.

🔴How is Diabetic Retinopathy managed?

Controlling blood glucose over time significantly reduces the risk of developing retinopathy, but does not eliminate it. The best management is to have regular eye examinations so that changes can be detected and treated early.

It is advisable for all people with diabetes to have annual eye examinations. People who have been diagnosed as having retinopathy should have eye examinations more frequently than once a year. In addition, regular visits to your general practitioner or endocrinologist may help to control blood glucose levels.

If you’re in need of quality eye care, Dr. David Antonyan can help. 

Vivid Visions Optometry, Inc serves patients from Santa Clarita and all its surrounding cities.


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