Diabetic retinopathy: blind spots

This disease of the retina is a possible consequence of diabetes, especially if the blood sugar is poorly controlled: the vessels damaged as a result can no longer supply the retina

Blind spots: Fat deposits, bleeding and vascular changes can restrict the field of vision

© Getty Images / Moment / seng chye teo

Professor Gerd Auffarth, Director of the University Eye Clinic Heidelberg

© W & B / Lemrich

Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the eye, and with it the retina. This can be prevented with early diagnosis and therapy. It affects 9 to 16 percent of type 2 and around one in four type 1 diabetics.

"The longer the diabetes persists and the worse the blood sugar level, the higher the risk," says Professor Gerd Auffarth, director of the Heidelberg University Eye Clinic. Treating high blood pressure and giving up smoking are just as important as having optimal blood sugar levels.

Blood vessel abnormalities

Experts differentiate between a "non-proliferative" and a severe "proliferative" form. The changes in the blood vessels initially show up in small bulges (microaneurysms), small hemorrhages in the retina and veins that run like pearls on a string.

When these abnormalities reach a certain extent, the disease can change into the "proliferative" form, in which blood vessels grow into the vitreous humor, cause severe bleeding and even detach the retina.

Attack on the vessels

© W & B / Michelle Günther


© W & B / Michelle Günther

Background of a healthy eye: the optic nerve emerges on the yellow side. This is also where arteries and veins meet

© W & B / Michelle Günther

Severe diabetic eye disease: bleeding, fatty deposits and vascular changes cause blind spots in the field of vision


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Diabetes can damage the blood vessels that supply the retina. If left untreated, there is a risk of more or less severe visual field losses

Rescue by laser

Then, at the latest, there is a need for action: Doctors obliterate the affected areas of the retina with a laser. The sclerosing points are so small that they only impair the field of vision with extensive treatment. As a result of the desolation, the production of the messenger substance that stimulates the formation of new vessels is probably reduced.

If the area of ​​sharpest vision is affected, the macula, and fluid is deposited there from leaky blood vessels (macular edema), the messenger substance is blocked directly. With agents called VEGF inhibitors - the same as for macular degeneration - vision improves in many cases.

Eyesight slowly disappears

"However, you should only inject it if your eyesight is less than 80 percent or is threatened with deterioration," emphasizes the ophthalmologist Dr. Klaus Dieter Lemmen, expert in diabetic retinopathy, "otherwise you should wait and check regularly." In patients who do not respond to this treatment, cortisone-like substances often help.

Treacherous: At first sight hardly decreases. Anyone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes should see an ophthalmologist quickly, and for type 1 diabetes within five years of the diagnosis. Regular checks are then important - the more severe the retinal damage, the more frequently.

Prevention: What is good for your eyes

  • A diet rich in vitamins and green vegetables all contribute to a healthy retina. Also: treat high blood pressure and diabetes, do not smoke.
  • When working on the screen, let your eyes wander from time to time. Medicines from the pharmacy help with dry eyes. Sufficient sleep also helps the eyes rest.
  • According to new data, exercise, for example, helps stop age-related macular degeneration.
  • Sunglasses protect against UV radiation. If possible, you should shield your eyes from the sides.
  • Anyone who goes to the doctor at the first symptoms of an eye disorder has a better chance that any therapy that may be necessary will work.