Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease caused by diabetes, including Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. It affects the small blood vessels of the retina at the back of the eye.

PPortrait of two children smiling. The image is covered with black 'floating clouds' to illustrate the impact of diabetic retinopathy on vision.

It often has no symptoms in the early stages. So changes in vision may not be noticed until the condition is serious. Vision may become hazy or blurred. Objects may float across the field of vision. Central vision may become distorted. Straight lines may appear bent or wavy. Fine details may become hard to see during everyday activities.

All people with diabetes are at risk. The risk is reduced when diabetes is controlled.

In early stages of diabetic retinopathy, treatment may not be needed. The aim is to prevent  further progression or vision loss by controlling blood glucose (‘sugar’), blood pressure and cholesterol, and regular eye tests. There are treatment options for diabetic retinopathy in its later stages, including laser surgery, but it may not restore vision already lost.

Early detection and treatment can help prevent around 98 per cent of severe vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, make sure that you:

  • Have an eye test with an eye health professional when first diagnosed with diabetes and every two years thereafter (once a year for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander People or more often, as directed by an eye health professional.
  • Immediately have an eye test if you notice a change in vision.
  • Maintain healthy blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Your GP can assist with this.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle.


KeepSight is a national eye screening initiative for Australians living with diabetes which aims to ensure all people with diabetes access the clinically recommended diabetes eye checks. The service reminds people with diabetes who are registered with the program when they are due for a diabetes eye check.

For more information or to register for reminders, visit the website KeepSight.

For more information

Visit the Diabetes Australia—Victoria website for information on diabetes.

Download Leaflets:

Diabetic retinopathy: for 18-39 old age group

Diabetic retinopathy: for 40+ age group

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