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Prevention - Diabetic retinopathy

Reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy or help stop it getting worse. Keep your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.

You can do this by making healthy lifestyle choices. Some people will also need to take medicine.

Healthy lifestyle

Making a few lifestyle changes can improve your general health. It can also reduce your risk of developing retinopathy.

Lifestyle changes include:

Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help control your blood glucose, blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

Know your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Try to keep your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. You'll need to check them regularly and know what level they are.

The better controlled you can keep them, the lower your chances of developing retinopathy. Your diabetes team can let you know what your target levels should be.

Blood glucose levels

If you check your blood glucose level at home, ask your doctor what your range should be. The level can vary throughout the day, so try to check it at different times. The result is given in millimoles per litre of blood (mmol/l).

The check you have at your GP surgery is a measure of your average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. It's called HbA1c. You should know this number, as it is the most important measure of your diabetes control.

Blood pressure

You can ask for a blood pressure test at your GP surgery, or you can buy a blood pressure monitor to use at home. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures.

Ask your doctor what your reading should be.


Your cholesterol level can be measured with a simple blood test carried out at your GP surgery. The result is given in millimoles per litre of blood (mmol/l).

Retina screening

The Diabetic RetinaScreen programme helps people with diabetes in Ireland who are at risk of retinopathy. If diabetic retinopathy is found early, treatment can reduce or prevent damage to your sight.

Even if you think your diabetes is well controlled, it's still important to go to your screening appointment. This can detect signs of a problem before you notice anything is wrong.

Early detection of retinopathy increases the chances of treatment being effective. It also stops it getting worse.

Non-urgent advice: Contact your doctor or diabetes team if

you develop any problems with your eyes or vision, such as:

  • gradually worsening vision
  • sudden vision loss
  • shapes floating in your vision (floaters)
  • blurred vision
  • eye pain or redness

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have diabetic retinopathy. But it's important to get them checked out straight away.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 13 May 2024
Next review due: 13 May 2027

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.