Diabetic Retinopathy Signs & Symptoms

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy generally cause no symptoms, so periodic eye exams are necessary to detect the condition. Even proliferative retinopathy does not initially produce symptoms.

Symptoms develop only when there is bleeding in the eye or a detached retina. A vitreous hemorrhage causes a person to see spots or showers of small spots called floaters, which can be severe enough to block vision entirely.

Sudden bleeding into the vitreous humor can cause rapid vision loss. Retinal detachment symptoms include wavy or watery vision, a dark shadow in part of the peripheral field of vision, and/or sudden blindness in one eye.

Blood vessel changes can cause macular edema or closure of the small vessels supplying the macula (macular nonperfusion), resulting in blurring of vision. Scar tissue in the macula due to proliferative retinopathy also can cause blurry vision.

Publication Review By: Susan B. Bressler, M.D., Harry A. Quigley, M.D., Oliver D. Schein, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 03 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 11 Oct 2011