If Your Blood Sugar is Normal, Can You Still Get Diabetic Retinopathy?

Posted by: Eye Health Northwest in Diabetes on December 12, 2023

If you have diabetes, it’s important to get regular eye exams. Diabetes can cause a condition called diabetic retinopathy, which changes the blood vessels in the eye. 

This can damage vision or cause blindness. Your eye doctor can identify the early signs of diabetic retinopathy and help you slow the progression of the disease to protect your eyesight. 

Keep reading to learn more about diabetic retinopathy and how it relates to blood sugar levels!

What is Diabetic Retinopathy? 

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when diabetes affects blood vessels in the eyes. Increased blood sugar can cause blockages in the tiny blood vessels in the retina. 

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Damage to the blood vessels can cause vision loss or blindness. 

There are two stages to diabetic retinopathy.

Nonproliferative Retinopathy

In the early stage of the disease, blood vessels swell and leak. This can lead to macular edema or swelling of the retina. 

It can also cause early changes to the nerve cells in the retina. Early-stage retinopathy can be treated. 

Proliferative Retinopathy

In the more advanced stage of the disease, abnormal new blood vessels develop on the surface of the retina. These vessels can break, causing bleeding into the vitreous, which is the clear, watery gel that fills the eye. 

This can also cause scarring that may lead to a detached retina or damage to the optic nerve. This stage of diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness without treatment.

What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy? 

Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. Even people with well-managed blood sugar may be at risk. 

There are health factors that can increase the risk of developing the condition, including: 

  • Having diabetes for a long time
  • Poorly controlled blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of tobacco

How Is Diabetic Retinopathy Treated? 

Early diabetic retinopathy may not require treatment. You can work with your eye doctor and endocrinologist to manage your diabetes and slow the progression of the disease. 

If you have advanced diabetic retinopathy, your eye doctor will suggest the best course of treatment for your situation. Treatment options include:

Laser Surgery

Surgery is an effective way to treat proliferative retinopathy. The procedure involves shrinking abnormal blood vessels or sealing vessels that are leaking. 

Vitrectomy

Vitrectomy is a procedure to remove the jelly-like substance or vitreous in the center of the eye. This procedure can be used to treat diabetic retinopathy if the vitreous gel inside the eye is exerting traction and tugging on the delicate retinal tissue. 

By removing this tractional vitreous gel and replacing it with a clear solution, a vitrectomy releases pulling on the retina. This prevents further retinal detachments or tears linked to diabetic retinopathy.

Injections

There are several medications that can be injected into the eye to slow the growth of the abnormal vessels in the retina. These drugs treat the swelling in the eye and reduce the risk of vision loss. 

What Are the Common Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?

In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you may not have symptoms. Your eye doctor can identify early signs of diabetic retinopathy during a routine eye exam before you notice changes to your vision. 

With more advanced diabetic retinopathy, you may develop vision changes such as:

  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Dark spots or floaters
  • Pain or pressure in one or both eyes 
  • Rings, flashing lights, or blank spots in your field of vision

Eye exams are one of the best ways to manage the risk of diabetic retinopathy, even if you have well-controlled blood sugar. Your eye doctor can monitor for signs of the condition and help you reduce the risk of advanced disease. 

Is it time for you to have an eye exam? Schedule an appointment at EyeHealth Northwest in Portland, OR, today!


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18345 SW Alexander St,
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Aloha, OR 97003
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Portland, OR 97213
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Troutdale, OR 97060
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Hillsboro, OR 97124
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Lake Oswego, OR 97035
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Milwaukie, OR 97222
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Portland, OR 97206
503 777-5546 see more
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2318 Portland Rd, Suite 300
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 538-1341 see more
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3246 N. Lombard St.
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 285-1671 see more
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1955 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-2020 see more
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1306 Division St
Oregon City, OR 97045
(503) 656-4221 see more
Peterkort
9555 SW Barnes Rd.
#100 (1rst floor)
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 227-2020 see more
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5050 NE Hoyt St., Suite 445
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 231-0166 see more
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9135 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 961
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 292-0848 see more
Southeast Portland
10819 SE Stark St,
Portland, OR 97216
(503) 255-2291 see more
Sunnyside
12050 SE Stevens Rd, Suite 100
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(503) 783-3300 see more
Tigard
15298 SW Royalty Parkway
Tigard OR 97224
(503) 227-2020 see more
Wilsonville
29250 SW Town Center Loop W
Wilsonville, OR 97070
(503) 582-0000 see more
Westside Surgery Center
13240 SW Pacific Hwy
Portland, OR 97223
(503) 639-6571 see more
EyeHealth Eastside Surgery and Laser Center
12050 SE Stevens Rd.
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(971) 206-6100 see more

Our Locations

Aloha
18345 SW Alexander St,
Suite A
Aloha, OR 97003
(503) 642-2505 see more
Glisan
6701 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 255-2291 see more
Gresham
24601 SE Stark St.
Suite 245
Troutdale, OR 97060
(503) 255-2291 see more
Hillsboro
6111 NE Cornell Rd
Hillsboro, OR 97124
(503) 846-9400 see more
Lake Oswego
9 Monroe Parkway, Suite 160
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
(503) 636-2551 see more
Milwaukie
11086 SE Oak St
Milwaukie, OR 97222
(503) 656-4221 see more
Mt. Tabor
5935 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97206
503 777-5546 see more
Newberg
2318 Portland Rd, Suite 300
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 538-1341 see more
North Portland
3246 N. Lombard St.
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 285-1671 see more
Northwest Portland
1955 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-2020 see more
Oregon City
1306 Division St
Oregon City, OR 97045
(503) 656-4221 see more
Peterkort
9555 SW Barnes Rd.
#100 (1rst floor)
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 227-2020 see more
Providence Portland
5050 NE Hoyt St., Suite 445
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 231-0166 see more
Providence St. Vincent
9135 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 961
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 292-0848 see more
Southeast Portland
10819 SE Stark St,
Portland, OR 97216
(503) 255-2291 see more
Sunnyside
12050 SE Stevens Rd, Suite 100
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(503) 783-3300 see more
Tigard
15298 SW Royalty Parkway
Tigard OR 97224
(503) 227-2020 see more
Wilsonville
29250 SW Town Center Loop W
Wilsonville, OR 97070
(503) 582-0000 see more
Surgery Centers

Westside Surgery Center

13240 SW Pacific Hwy
Portland, OR 97223
(503) 639-6571 see more

EyeHealth Eastside Surgery and Laser Center

12050 SE Stevens Rd.
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(971) 206-6100 see more