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    Signs and symptoms

    Diabetic retinopathy can progress to advanced stages before you notice any changes to your vision. That's why regular eye exams are so important.

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    Signs of diabetic retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy can progress to advanced stages before you notice any changes to your vision, which is why you can’t just rely on noticing symptoms. The early signs of diabetic eye disease are only visible during an eye examination.

    This means you’ll need to regularly see your eye health professional, either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. 

    Some signs of DR that your eye health professional may pick up in an eye exam include:

    • microaneurysms (MA) and haemorrhages (bleeding from the small retinal vessels). These are typically small spots of blood within the retina. Bleeding into the vitreous, the fluid-filled space in front of the retina, can result in blurred vision and the appearance of floaters.
    • edema, which is swelling of the retina that occurs as a result of fluid leakage from the blood vessels.
    • exudates, which are deposits of proteins and lipids (fats) from fluid that has leaked from the blood vessels.
    • cotton wool spots. These are areas of the retinal nerve fibre layer that become swollen due to a lack of blood supply.
    • neovascularisation, which is the growth of new blood vessels on the surface of the retina.

    Symptoms you may experience

    If you experience the following symptoms, it could be due to diabetic retinopathy. You should always get checked if you have:

    • dark spots or gaps in your vision
    • blurred, distorted, or dim vision
    • frequent changes in glasses prescription
    • flashes of light seen repeatedly, often in the peripheral vision
    • sudden onset of haze, shadows or floaters moving across the vision. Floaters look like dots, circles, lines or cobwebs that move across the field of vision. They’re most noticeable when looking at a white wall or clear sky.

    If you notice any new or worrying symptoms, whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, visit your eye health professional as soon as possible.

    Early treatment can help save your sight.