Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy most often affects both eyes at the same time and in equal measure. In its earliest stages, Diabetic retinopathy symptoms may not appear. The initial symptoms may be barely noticeable or mild. Over time, diabetic retinopathy vision can worsen and lead to partial and then complete blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy symptoms include:

  • Floaters or dots and dark strings in your field of vision
  • Dark or empty areas in your field of vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Vision changes that seem to fluctuate
  • Altered color vision
  • Partial or total vision loss

If you’re experiencing issues with only one eye, it doesn’t mean you don’t have diabetic retinopathy. However, it might indicate another eye issue. Contact Ophthalmology Associates to schedule an appointment to find an appropriate treatment plan.

Anatomy of an eye with diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

Treatment for diabetic retinopathy is intended to slow or stop the progression of the diabetic retinopathy symptoms. The exact treatment depends on which type of retinopathy you have, how severe your diabetic retinopathy is and how well-controlled your diabetes is. Although issues can often correct themselves once diabetic retinopathy treatment
is complete and your eyes have had time to heal, vision assistance devices, such as glasses or contacts can also be used to treat any permanent vision changes. Possible treatments include:

Yearly Eye Exams

Yearly eye exams are important in treating retinopathy, even if your eyesight issues aren’t severe or causing diabetic retinopathy symptoms. Going to yearly exams is the only way your ophthalmologists can monitor changes.

Healthy Lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle allows you to manage your diabetes as well as your eyesight issues related to diabetes and taking control of your blood glucose to reduce the likelihood that your diabetic retinopathy will become worse.

Focal Laser Treatment

A focal laser treatment could be an option if you have advanced diabetic retinopathy. This diabetic retinopathy treatment can stop or slow blood leakage from your blood vessels by burning the abnormal blood vessels and should stop symptoms—possibly reverse them.

Scatter Laser Treatment

Scatter laser treatment is a type of laser treatment that can shrink abnormal blood vessels and scar them, so they’re less likely to grow or bulge in the future.


Vitrectomy is a minor surgery to ease the symptoms of retinopathy if lifestyle or laser treatments don’t work. During this procedure, a tiny incision is made in your eye to remove blood that has leaked from your blood vessels. Scar tissue that is pulling on your retina and impacting your vision can also be removed. Learn more about vitrectomy.

Eye exam for Diabetic Retinopathy

Recommended Exam Schedule for Diabetics

With a high risk of developing certain eye diseases, individuals with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once a year because in its early stages, diabetic eye disease often has no symptoms. By scheduling an annual exam it could help preserve your vision and reduce your chances of eye disease. A dilated eye exam allows our ophthalmologists to examine the retina and optic nerve more thoroughly for signs of damage before you notice any change to your vision. Regularly monitoring your eyes’ health allows your ophthalmologist to begin treatment as soon as possible if signs of disease do appear. Please allow 60-90 minutes when dilation is included in your routine eye exam.

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Get connected with the on-call doctor using our Answering Service. If immediate care is needed, please call 911.

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Dr. Birkholz specializes in cataract surgery, LASIK eye surgery, medical retina, glaucoma management and more.

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Ophthalmology Associates has been serving the greater Mankato area for over 50 years and our goal has been to provide our patients with the utmost in personal attention and the very best in eye care services. Contact us to set up your appointment today!