Who is at risk

Diabetic retinopathy is a problem linked to diabetes. Anyone with diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Risk factors include:


Both younger and older people with diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Some of the most severe cases of diabetic retinopathy occur in people who were diagnosed with diabetes at a very young age after they have had the disease for many years.

Duration of the Disease

The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the chance of retinopathy. Nearly all people with type 1 diabetes and more than 60% of people with type 2 diabetes have retinopathy in the first 20 years of living with the disease.

Blood Sugar Control

Poor blood sugar control is one of the main causes of diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, you can lower the risk of vision loss by carefully monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels. You may be able to slow the onset and progression of retinopathy and decrease the need for surgery by controlling blood sugar levels through a healthy diet, insulin and other drugs.


Quitting smoking can reduce risk for diabetic retinopathy.


Alcohol and diabetes are a dangerous combination for many reasons, including an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy.


High blood pressure increases the risk of eye disease, as well as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. It may be necessary to change diet and exercise habits or take medication to keep blood pressure under control.


While scientists are still unsure why pregnancy seems to increase a woman's risk of developing, or accelerating, diabetic retinopathy. Pregnant women with diabetes should see their eye doctor during their pregnancy.

Renal Disease

Kidney disease is a major complication of diabetes. The earlier kidney disease is diagnosed, the better. Individuals with diabetes must have their urine tested regularly for early signs of kidney disease.