Risk Factors

​​​​Everyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, but there are certain factors that increase this risk. Some of the risk factors cannot be controlled.

Uncontrollable risk factors:

  • Type of diabetes: People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to experience vision loss sooner than those with type 2 diabetes.

  • Ethnicity: Aboriginal Canadians are three to five times more likely than the general population to develop type 2 diabetes and are, therefore, at a much higher risk of developing vision problems related to diabetes.

Controllable risk factors:

The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with:

  • High Blood Sugar (Glucose). People with diabetes whose blood sugar is not at target are almost eight times more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy. Target ranges for blood sugar can vary depending on your age, medical condition and other risk factors. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator what your levels should be.

People who have persistently high blood sugar are at risk for serious vision loss and blindness. Regular follow-ups with your health care team (eye doctor, family doctor, diabetes educator, nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) regarding control of your blood sugars, blood pressure and cholesterol play an essential role in helping to preserve vision.

  • Smoking. When you have diabetes, smoking increases your risk of vision loss. It also increases blood pressure and blood sugar levels, making it harder to control diabetes.

  • High Blood Pressure. If you have diabetes and you also have high blood pressure and/or high lipid (fat) levels, you’re more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy.

  • High Cholesterol. In addition to high blood pressure, high cholesterol has also been shown to be a risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy.

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