What Are Your Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy?

What Are Your Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy
What Are Your Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy

Blood sugar levels, age, and genetic susceptibility are the main risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy.

People with diabetes are susceptible to developing a sight-threatening eye condition known as diabetic retinopathy. Blood vessels throughout your body, including those in your eyes, are damaged when your blood sugar is too high for an extended period. The illness might result in the vessels being weakened, bleeding, leaking fluid, or growing in the wrong places.

In your retina, the area of your eye that converts light into signals your brain can understand, bleeding or leaking arteries impair vision. The macula, a region of the retina where your eyesight is sharpest, may also expand as a result of the fluid.

Your symptoms might not be visible at first, but they could get worse over time.

What you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of diabetic retinopathy is provided below.

What increases your risk for diabetic retinopathy?

Other than having any kind of diabetes, several other variables raise your risk for this diabetes-related condition. Conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol can be risk factors.

Research has also shown that those of African or Hispanic heritage are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy. Healthcare disparities may be one cause of this. A family history of diabetic retinopathy may also make you more vulnerable.

The likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the duration of your diabetes.

Additionally, a 2020 research of 1,008 diabetics in China found the following risk factors:
  • diabetic nephropathy (diabetes-related kidney damage)
  • diabetes-related foot ulcer
  • older age
  • male sex
  • diabetic neuropathy (diabetes-related nerve damage)
  • higher body mass
  • higher fasting blood sugar

What are the main risk factors for diabetic retinopathy?

How long you've had diabetes and how effectively you manage your blood sugar levels over time appear to be the two biggest risk factors.

The lower you maintain your 3-month average A1C level, the lower your risk of problems associated with diabetes is, according to well-established studies that date back to the 1990s. Although the best way to set an individual's A1C and blood sugar range objectives is in collaboration with a diabetic care team, experts generally recommend that your A1C be kept safely at 7.0% or lower.

Despite controlling their blood sugar, many diabetics may eventually get diabetic retinopathy.

A 2016 study found that 44% of diabetics had retinopathy, and a 2017 study found that 24.5% of diabetics experienced this condition.

How does your age affect your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy?

The structure of your eye changes as you age. As you age, your eyes normally receive less blood that is rich in nutrients and oxygen. Damage to your eyes will recover more gradually than it would to younger eyes. Also more susceptible to stress and inflammation will be your eyes.

These modifications may impede the healing process and amplify the harm caused by complications from diabetes.

In addition to age, research shows that diabetics who also experience additional issues, such as nerve damage or renal illness linked to diabetes, have a higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Do diabetic complications have a hereditary component?

Yes, according to research, genetics can influence who develops problems from diabetes, such as diabetic retinopathy.

High blood sugar levels are a significant contributor to problems associated with diabetes, according to a 2023 study.

Blood sugar levels may be influenced by additional factors, such as heredity, which may offset the effects of diabetes in some people so they don't have difficulties in the same manner as others.

In certain cases, the development of a future diabetic issue may even begin during the early stages of a pregnancy.

When diabetes develops later in life as a result of this early propensity, the person may be more susceptible to the detrimental effects of persistently increased glucose levels due to their more fragile arteries and nerves.

It is still unknown exactly how a person's genes and inherited risk contribute to the development of diabetes-related complications, and researchers are still looking more closely at this issue in people who have had diabetes for extended periods.

Can diabetic retinopathy raise your risk of other eye problems?

Because diabetic retinopathy damages the blood vessels in your eyes, it can also result in other problems that could impair your ability to see.

Your blood vessels weaken or become clogged in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. The veins may develop very little bulges that let fluid flow into your retina. Your eyesight may get hazy as a result of this process, which can make your macula swell.

Your body may notice that your eyes aren't getting enough blood and oxygen later on. It produces erroneous new blood vessels that develop in the incorrect locations. Additionally, these new blood vessels could leak fluid or obstruct vital eye activities.

These modifications brought on by diabetic retinopathy could result in further issues like:
  • When you have diabetic macular oedema, your blood vessels leak fluid into your macula.
  • Neovascular glaucoma develops when defective blood vessels grow in locations that obstruct ocular fluid drainage as a result of diabetic retinopathy.
  • When a disorder leaves scars on the retina's back, it causes retinal detachment. The retina may start to separate from your eye as a result of these scars.

How to lower your chance of developing diabetic retinopathy

Managing your blood sugar levels and getting frequent eye exams, especially as you age, are the greatest ways to lower your risk. An annual dilated eye exam is advised by the National Eye Institute (NIE).

The NIE also suggests forming routines that might enhance general health and make controlling diabetes easier.

Among these behaviours are:
  • keeping your A1C values and blood sugar levels within the usual range
  • exercising consistently
  • adopting a diabetes-friendly diet
  • taking prescription drugs as directed
  • handling other ailments like high blood pressure and cholesterol


A frequent and potentially harmful consequence of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.

Risk factors for this disorder that threaten vision include getting older and having high blood sugar levels over an extended period. In general, your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with the length of time you have diabetes and the difficulty managing it.

Regular eye checkups, blood sugar control, and establishing healthy behaviours all reduce the likelihood of contracting the condition and can help you avoid it or limit its growth.


Is pregnancy a risk factor for diabetic retinopathy?

Pregnancy is known to worsen diabetic retinopathy.

Can you live with diabetic retinopathy?

It can be diagnosed early and managed with good diabetes care.

Can diabetic retinopathy be stopped?

Treatment can not cure diabetic retinopathy, although it can delay or stop its progression.

Can you recover from retinopathy?

Early treatment can stop the damage and prevent blindness.

Can eye drops help diabetic retinopathy?

Neuroprotective eye drops could be used twice daily to cure diabetic retinopathy.

Can glasses help retinopathy?

Blurred vision cannot be fixed with glasses.

Can I exercise with retinopathy?

Refrain from exercise to avoid vit- reoretinal hemorrhage.

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