No, diabetes-related retinopathy is not reversible. But you can slow down progression or stop it from getting worse through diabetes management, eye injections, laser treatment, and more.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication that many people with diabetes face, especially if they’ve lived with diabetes for some time.
This article discusses whether diabetes-related retinopathy is reversible, and how treatments can help address this diabetes complication.
No, diabetes-related retinopathy is not reversible. However, during the early stages, some of the symptoms can fade so that it appears the retinopathy is no longer present.
The damage done to the eye from diabetic retinopathy is usually permanent. As retinopathy sometimes does not present any symptoms in its early stages, this can affect people with diabetes even more.
While this complication isn’t reversible, there are treatments available that can slow down or stop the retinopathy from getting worse to save some of your vision.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of the eyes caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina. High blood sugar levels over a long time cause diabetic retinopathy.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels can weaken, bulge, or leak into the retina.
Early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy may include:
- experiencing blurry vision
- seeing dark spots
- perceiving floaters
- having difficulty seeing colors
As the complication progresses, it can cause blindness in people with diabetes.
Although diabetic retinopathy in not curable, you can manage, slow down, and stop the condition from getting worse.
Careful diabetes management can sometimes treat mild cases of diabetic retinopathy. You can try to manage diabetes by:
- checking blood sugars regularly
- keeping glucose levels in range
- maintaining your A1C results at
7% or lower
- eating a balanced diet
- exercising regularly
- avoiding smoking
Sometimes, you may find that focusing more on your diabetes management can even help make your retinopathy symptoms lessen or even disappear. That can feel like you’ve reversed diabetic retinopathy, but it’s more a matter of the symptoms lessening and the complication not getting worse at that time.
More advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy may require laser treatment or surgery to slow the progression of the condition and save vision. Some options for
Photocoagulation (laser treatment) can help prevent vision loss, especially if a doctor performs it early. Doctors often perform laser treatments before severe retina damage is done.
They may treat more severe stages of diabetic retinopathy with a more aggressive form of laser therapy called scatter (panretinal) photocoagulation surgery. This limits the growth of new blood vessels in the eye.
These treatments can be extremely effective, but they do not work in every case.
This is a type of surgical procedure. A doctor surgically removes the vitreous gel from the eye to help improve vision before severe damage sets in. Doctors typically perform it when there’s bleeding in the eye that doesn’t clear up on its own, or retinal detachment. They can also perform the surgery to remove scar tissue.
However, these situations are rare in early-stage diabetic retinopathy.
Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor medications
These medications slow the growth of atypical blood vessels in the retina.
A protein called vascular endothelial growth factor causes the atypical blood vessel growth. The medications block the effects of the protein to help shrink blood vessels and preserve vision.
Doctors may also inject steroids into the eye to also alleviate symptoms. However, recurring treatments are necessary if the condition progresses over time.
Importance of diabetes eye care
It is a good idea to have routine eye appointments so that doctors can measure and track your vision and any worsening complications over time. This is important because early stages of diabetic retinopathy may have no symptoms.
An optometrist or ophthalmologist can detect damage to the retina and potentially start early interventions on the eye.
Short answer: There is no way to reverse the condition naturally once damage to the retina occurs.
However, the basics of diabetes management, as mentioned above — exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods, and maintaining blood sugar — are keys to your diabetic eye health. Additionally, avoiding smoking and keeping your cholesterol levels lower may also help slow down diabetic retinopathy naturally,
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication affecting many people who live with diabetes. While not reversible, you can treat this complication to slow down progression or stop it from getting worse.
If you have a diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy, treatments may vary, depending on how severe the complication is at the time of diagnosis. Options may include careful diabetes management, medicated eye injections, laser treatments, or other surgical procedures.
Time is important in diagnosing retinopathy and slowing it down or stopping it from getting worse. Consult your diabetes care team and eye doctors if you’re experiencing any eye-related health concerns.