You may not notice any vision changes with background diabetic retinopathy. Treatment isn’t necessary, but improving blood sugar management can help prevent this complication from getting worse.

In its early stages, diabetes-related retinopathy doesn’t harm your vision or cause any other symptoms. This is sometimes called background diabetic retinopathy.

The eye damage at this stage does not yet affect your vision or require laser or injection treatments.

You can prevent it from getting worse by better managing your blood sugar levels and taking other steps to reduce your risk of more advanced diabetic retinopathy and vision loss.

Diabetic retinopathy is very common in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

It is the most common vision-related complication of diabetes. It’s also the most common cause of vision loss in people of working age.

Background diabetic retinopathy is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy.

When you have background diabetic retinopathy, tiny bulges can be seen in the blood vessels in the back of your eye. These bulges are the result of blood vessel damage. The blood vessels can leak, causing additional damage and eventually leading to vision loss.

In background diabetic retinopathy, the damage isn’t severe. You typically don’t yet need treatment, and you’re not likely to have any visual symptoms.

However, the condition can progress, causing more eye damage and leading to vision changes.

Background diabetic retinopathy will not affect your vision.

At this stage, the damage to your retinas is still minor. But if diabetic retinopathy progresses, it can lead to vision loss and eventual blindness.

You can read more about the stages of diabetic retinopathy in this article.

There’s no treatment for background diabetic retinopathy.

However, this stage is a good time to take steps to reduce the risk that diabetic retinopathy will progress.

By working to manage your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, you can better manage your diabetes and prevent further damage to your eyes.

Steps you can take include:

  • Monitoring your blood sugar: Knowing your blood sugar levels can help you manage them. It can also help you report important information, such as how your blood sugar responds to medication, to your doctor.
  • Taking blood sugar medications: Your doctor might prescribe medications to help keep your blood sugar in your target range. It’s important to take them exactly as prescribed.
  • Taking other diabetes medications: It’s common for people with diabetes to be prescribed medications to help manage cholesterol levels, blood pressure, or other health conditions. Taking these medications as directed can help reduce your risk of retinopathy progression.
  • Following your meal plan: Eating healthy with diabetes may include food choices that are low in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. Some diabetes care professionals may also advise lower carbohydrate food choices.
  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight: Maintaining a moderate body weight can help improve measures of health such as your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as your overall health.
  • Exercising regularly: Staying active helps your body process the calories you eat. It also improves circulation and heart health.
  • Quitting smoking, if applicable: Smoking increases the risk of diabetes complications.
  • Drinking responsibly in moderation: Alcohol affects your entire body, and many alcoholic beverages are high in sugar. You can learn more about alcohol and your health here.

It’s also important to look out for signs that your retinopathy has progressed. Early detection of changes is one of the best ways to improve the chances of successful treatment.

Signs retinopathy is progressing include:

How often should you get a diabetes eye exam?

It’s important to have a diabetic eye exam at least once per year. This will include a screening for retinopathy that can catch diabetic retinopathy in its early stages, before you notice any symptoms of progression.

Sometimes, your doctor may ask you to come back for a second screening in less than a year. This might happen if your blood sugar levels are not well regulated and your doctor is concerned that your diabetic retinopathy might progress quickly.

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Background diabetic retinopathy is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy, a complication that can develop when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the back of your eye.

If you have background diabetic retinopathy, you will have clear damage to your blood vessels but will not have any visual symptoms.

Treatment isn’t necessary at this stage, but you may want to take steps to better manage your diabetes, including managing your blood sugar levels and making efforts to maintain a healthy weight. These and other changes can help prevent background diabetic retinopathy from getting worse and affecting your vision.