Difference Between Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular Degeneration

Diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration are two common eye diseases that can lead to vision loss in people. However, they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Understanding the differences between these two conditions can help individuals in early detection and management of the diseases.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition caused by the damage to the blood vessels in the retina of the eye due to long-term high blood sugar levels. The disease occurs in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and can lead to vision loss and blindness if left untreated.

The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include blurred vision, seeing floaters, and visual field loss. The treatment options include laser therapy, surgical intervention, and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels to slow the progression of the disease.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration, on the other hand, is an age-related eye disease that affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision. The disease results from the progressive damage of the cells in the macula, leading to a gradual loss of central vision.

The symptoms of macular degeneration include distorted vision, difficulty reading, and the appearance of a dark or empty spot in the center of the vision. The treatment options for macular degeneration include the use of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and photodynamic therapy to slow the progression of the disease.

Differences: Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular Degeneration

The differences between Asthma and RAD can also be seen in their symptoms. Asthma symptoms can persist even when the person is not exposed to any triggers, while RAD symptoms are usually temporary and go away once the person is removed from the triggering environment. Asthma symptoms can also worsen over time, while RAD symptoms generally do not. Additionally, people with asthma may experience symptoms even when they are not active, while RAD symptoms are often more noticeable when the person is physically active.

In terms of treatment, Asthma is managed through a combination of medications, lifestyle changes and environmental control measures. Medications such as inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators are used to reduce inflammation and increase air flow in the airways. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding triggers, reducing stress, and regular exercise can also help manage asthma symptoms.

RAD, on the other hand, can be treated by avoiding environmental irritants, using inhaled bronchodilators to open the airways, and using oral steroids for severe cases. RAD does not require long-term treatment as the symptoms usually resolve on their own.

The following table highlights the major differences between Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular Degeneration: −


Diabetic Retinopathy

Macular Degeneration


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a disease that occurs as a result of damage to the retina blood vessels in people who have diabetes.

(AMD) is a degenerative eye disease that gradually damages the macula causing progressive loss of central vision.


  • Poor night vision

  • The impairment of colour vision

  • Patches or streaks that block the person’s vision

  • Extra sensitivity towards glare

  • Inability to see or read in dim and faint light

  • “Fuzzy” or blurred vision

  • Abnormal blood clotting

  • Distorted vision

Lines appear wavy or blurred, with some dark areas at the centre.


Diabetic retinopathy has a number of stages −

  • Non-proliferative – damage to the blood vessels in the retina, vision is not affected in this stage

  • Proliferative – abnormal and fragile blood vessels begin to grow on the retina.

  • Macular Oedema – the abnormal blood vessels leak fluid into the macula– the centre of the retina –causing blurred vision

  • Vitreous Haemorrhage –the abnormal blood vessel

The course of Age-related Macular Degeneration is different in different people. It has 3 stages −

  • Early-stage Age-related Macular Degeneration: No pigment changes, medium- sized drusen deposits, no loss of vision.

  • Intermediate Age-related Macular Degeneration: Large drusen and/or pigment changes. In this, there may be mild loss of vision, but most of the times, many people do not face any symptoms.

  • Late-stage Age-related Macular Degeneration: Dry or wet macular degeneration (AMD) that causes vision loss.


  • Vitreous hemorrhage –bleeding in the eyes

  • Retinal detachment

  • Glaucoma

  • Blindness

  • Anxiety or depression

  • Decreased contrast sensitivity

  • Decreased visual acuity

  • Metamorphopsia

  • Central scotoma


  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)

  • Fluorescein angiography

  • Dilated eye exam

Doctor can detect the presence of

  • abnormalities in the blood vessels, optic nerve, or retina

  • cataracts

  • changes in eye pressure or overall vision

  • new blood vessels

  • retinal detachment

  • scar tissue

  • Test for defects in the centre of your vision

  • Fluorescein angiography

  • Indocyanine green angiography

  • Optical coherence tomography

  • Examination of the back of your eye

  • Amsler grid

  • Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)


  • Early diabetic retinopathy

  • Advanced diabetic retinopathy

Depending on the specific problems with your retina, options may include −

  • Photocoagulation.

  • Pan retinal photocoagulation

  • Vitrectomy

  • Injecting medicine into the eye

  • Laser Photocoagulation

  • Anti-VEGF Therapy

  • Anti-angiogenic drugs

  • Laser therapy

  • Photodynamic laser therapy

  • Medications used to treat wet macular degeneration include

  • Bevacizumab (Avastin),

  • Ranibizumab (Lucentis)

  • Aflibercept (Eylea)


  • Strictly controlling alcohol intake

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet

  • Smoking cessation

  • Regularly exercising

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight

  • Attending regular screenings

  • Taking any antihypertensive measures according to their doctor’s instructions

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Eat a nutritious diet that includes green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruit, fish and whole grains

  • Wear sunglasses outdoors to block UV and blue light that may cause eye damage

  • If you already have AMD, consult your physician for AREDS (a special combination of vitamins and minerals) formulations, PreserVision AREDS 2 (Bausch + Lomb), such as I- Caps AREDS 2 (Alcon), Eyepex Macula (Eyepex Formulas) or MacularProtect Complete AREDS2 (Science Based Health).

  • Have regular eye exams.

  • Don’t smoke

  • Maintain normal blood pressure and control other medical conditions

  • Exercise regularly


Diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration are two different eye diseases that affect the vision of people, but they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Understanding the differences between these two conditions can help in early detection and management of the diseases to prevent vision loss and blindness.

Regular eye exams and monitoring of blood sugar levels in diabetics are crucial in detecting and managing diabetic retinopathy. Meanwhile, regular eye exams and a healthy lifestyle can help in the early detection and management of macular degeneration.

Updated on: 04-Apr-2023


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