What does retinopathy "look" like?

So when I awoke this a.m. it was still dark and I looked at my Fitbit watch to see the time. If you have one you know how it works–the motion sensor tells the screen to light up when you lift your wrist a certain way, and it’s quite bright. So at first I thought it had left an afterimage in my right eye. A bright spot when I closed it, a dark spot when I open it. Very similar to that flash-bulb blind-spot effect I get when a severe low is coming on—thought that might be it for a second but my BG was around 90, so no. And the Fitbit afterimage hypothesis failed when the effect persisted. I’m still seeing it.

Posting this here because it’s Saturday, my eye doctor’s office is closed for the weekend, and I really don’t want to go to the ER with this. If it is retinopathy I don’t think there’s anything they could do about it anyway. But I’ve never had it so I just don’t know. Can anyone who has had it let me know if it “looked” like this? Again, very much like flashbulb afterimage: a little black disk to the upper right of my visual field that becomes a bright spot when I close that eye.

Just had an eye exam like two weeks ago and everything was fine.

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I’m sorry to say I don’t know but since no one else has replied, I would just encourage you to either go to the ER or get an eye doctor on the phone. (Maybe someone covers for your eye doctor’s office on weekends?)
I’m not saying this because I know your symptom to be alarming, just because it’s your vision and better to waste time on a pointless ER visit then regret not having taken timely action.


When I suddenly had a vision problem, my first retinopathy, it was on a Sunday. I called my ophthalmologist’s office and was connected to the doctor on call which happened a to be the owner of the practice. We met him at this office a short time later and he immediately did some laser work on my eye.

Call your eye doctor. I felt bad making my doctor come on his day off, but he said that is what he was there for.


I’ve been getting Avastin injections for retinopathy for like 2 years now, and have had one laser treatment in each eye. My vision did awesome for like 30 years of T1, but it finally caught up to me

For me, I can actually see the blood spots. Have you seen the Harry Potter movies? A bad bleed looks like the scenes they film looking out through the invisibility cloak, like it was filmed with mesh over the camera. I can see, but it’s slightly obstructed. When I focus on the blood, it looks like a criss crossed streaky abstract painting with the background streaks more diffused than the foreground streaks.

With the more common lesser bleeds, I get tiny floaters. (Though I’ve been told that floaters are actually supposed to be flashes of light, what else am I supposed to call flecks that float in my field of vision???) I can focus my vision on the flecks, and they look like dark ink blots, sometimes with a comet trail dragging behind them. When I close my eyes, a little light still passes through the eye lid and the spots are still dark on a lighter background.


When I was 30 I saw some flashes of light which was retinopathy but I just tightened up control and my eyes were completely clear for another 40 yrs.
The bigger bleed which I had a couple of years ago covered most of my eye with light. Hard to explain.


I had a similar event. Called my retina specialist office. They wanted to see me right away in case it was a retina tear.

I was told to fast, not bend over, lift nothing heavier than 4 pounds in case there was a tear.

Lucky me, it was the vitreous gel in the eye pulled away from a portion of the retina. This can damage the retina.

Maybe there is an ophthalmologist on call.



I have age-related retinopathy (mild) in my left eye. The sum total of the symptoms is fuzziness in that eye. My ophthalmologist told me to take Bosch & Lomb AREDS2 vitamins twice a day. I don’t know ic it would help diabetic retinopathy but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Update 4/25/23: I can now give a description of what retinopathy “looks” like. I started seeing a large bump in any horizontal straight line. I thought the intraocular lens put in for my last cataract extraction was defective. My neye doc checked and it is ann increase in my age-related retinopathy. Makes it real fun to cut a straight line on my lathe, for sure.


I had posterior vitreal detachment in eavh eye, about a year apart. Quite a scary thing. On the first one I thought it was a retinal detachment but wasn’t. That came about five years later.

In any case, what i was told was that you need to see an ophthalmologist ASAP for anything like this, as remediation is only possible for a fairly short amount of time (a couple days at most).


Yes that is what I had, I just didn’t remember the name. I had light flashes and a floater that looked like contrails in the sky.

And detached retina needs to be corrected ASAP. My step-mother was blind from age 21 with detached retinas in both eyes. If this had happened today she may have keep her eyesight.


Beloved vitreous hemorrhage? I’ve had in both eyes. Incredibly irritating but ophthalmologist says “it will settle down”. So still no vitrectomy. Yet.

I really don’t like the Eyelea injections (or the freakin’ cost!!) but I’d rather not go blind . . Have had some lasers as well. Also not much fun.

If it’s a sudden darkening of vision, it’s probably a bleed. If it’s flashes of light, I would not wait. I’d get it checked out tomorrow. I agree that you don’t want to mess around with your eyes!!

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It’s funny how different the symptoms of the same exact thing can be. I had both vitreouses (had to look up the plural of that!) detach at the same exact time in college, but there was no flashes of light or anything. It just looked like someone was pulling a blanket up over my eyes. Apparently I was seeing my eyes fill with blood, but I didn’t know that at the time. It was terrifying! I was standing in the cafeteria line and went blind over the course of about 5 minutes. Had to be led out so someone could drive me to the hospital. I thought my diabetes got me, but was told at that time I had no retinopathy and that it was just because I was near-sighted. Now I’m wondering how common it is amongst diabetics, though.

For those unfamiliar, the jelly-like filling of the eye (vitreous) shrinks and pulls away from the back of the eye. It’s a normal part of aging. Usually it happens slowly and unnoticeably, but it can happen suddenly, tearing the blood vessels and causing a lot of bleeding. It’s usually a pretty benign process, except for being scary, and clears up on it’s own.


Thanks all. I did take the advice and got in to see the off-hours optometrist today. Turns out it was a bleeder, not a retinal tear or anything like that. Phew. Part of the reason I was concerned was that my son-in-law, with whom we co-house, had a retinal tear last year and delayed for a couple of weeks after first detecting it. Which turns out to be a bad idea. I really didn’t want to end up lying on my stomach for weeks recovering from repair surgery, as he did, so that drove me to get in and not wait another day. And I’ve had the vitreous fluid detachment myself and knew this wasn’t that, at least as I’ve experienced it.

Anyway, glad to have all the responses—they might prove helpful to others as well.


I’m actually so happy that I just read my email with the forum summary. This thread was the first topic.
I’m going in for my second set of injections today. And of course there’s always the thought in the back of my head that the Dr is just being over cautious.
Reading all of your replies helped me come to terms with what I’m going through.
So thank you!


Glad that you found out, DrBB.

I’m speaking up because I’ve had an experience with an eye doctor who assumed I had diabetic retinopathy but didn’t.

I’ve had two retinal bleeds in the last two years, one in each eye. The first was quickly diagnosed as diabetic retinopathy, and I had several rounds of laser and injections.

We moved after that to the Austin area. I had a second bleed about two months ago. Both had the same symptoms—an eye full of blood, like Robyn described above.

My new specialist reviewed the images after two weeks, when most of the blood had cleared. He told me I don’t have a diabetes problem, I have a birthday problem—too many birthdays :slight_smile:

I think my second doctor is right: it’s lattice degeneration, associated with nearsightedness and aging. It can cause retinal tears, and the treatment is laser, to seal the tear with scar tissue.

I’ve had type 1 since 1973 and my eye scans have never shown retinopathy. They still don’t. I’ve had one round of laser with this eye and believe the recovery process has been much better with this diagnosis.

I’ve read that diagnosing retinal problems is challenging, so I don’t blame anyone. But it’s useful for me to know that my diabetes may have led my first doctor to the wrong diagnosis and treatment.


Hah! Indeed.

My Doc also pointed out that given my numbers (last A1C was 5.8) she wouldn’t assume it was retinopathy or D related. Said lots of people get the occasional bleeder as they get older, especially if they’ve been doing heavy yard work or lifting, or—not to be coy about it—a bout of constipation. Apparently straining on the toilet can do it :smiley:


I like hearing your Doc’s view. I’m guilty of thinking that when my body breaks down that diabetes is always the cause. I believe my first doctor (who was a good doctor but younger and less experienced) may have jumped to that conclusion. The VEGF injections like those I received have saved the vision of many folks with retinopathy. It’s such an effective tool, I’ve wondered if it made my retinal bleed look like a nail that needed a great hammer. :wink:

Call your eye doctor’s number right away. Time is important. The office’s recording should give instructions for how to reach the doctor who is on call. Don’t wait. If the doctor can see it early enough he/she may be able to treat it.
I was first diagnosed with retinopathy in 1986 and had no vision issues at all. The doctor identified it during an annual visit. It was treated with laser. Ever since then my ophthalmologist has always instructed me to contact him right away if I ever see bright spots or floaters. This happened once, maybe a year ago, and I followed his instructions. He treated my eye and, knock on wood, I continue to have excellent vision.
Call your doctor. Good luck.


My own experience was of a gauzy blanket over one eye. The world just sort of greyed out. I had some further bleeds in that eye and one in the other one as well. I had minimal retinopathy but had been getting the dreaded shots which my ophthalmologist suggests we continue.

Now, a year and a half later, I think it’s getting better. Better glucose control may be helping as well.

But for me, interestingly, my visual symptoms really only started after I got on Dexcom and improved my A1C from 8.2% to 6.2% in the matter of a few months.

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Thanks @SheilaW. If you scroll up you’ll see that that’s what I did. Turned out to be no big deal but you’re right about not delaying, especially in the case of something like a retinal tear. Best not to take chances.

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I had a longer post here, but realized that it was too late to help the OP, and I missed the most important point and took it down.

Waiting until it’s convenient for you to visit a doctr is definitely NOT what you should do about eye problems. Driving with one one less functional eye is a lot harder.

If you have ANY kind of sudden, or persistent and progressive change to your health, please don’t try to self-diagnose. Get the fastest medical attention that you can get. You are unlikely to get better without the right therapy. Calling your doctor’s office and leaving messages may be the fastest way to get them to shoehorn you into an appointment the next day, but might be too late to prevent a problem from becoming worse and unable to prevent progressing out if control.

Even if you correctly diagnose it, you can’t treat it without an expert. With medical issues, earlier treatment is generally more effective.

All the folks here can tell you is what they’ve experienced or learned from research. Eve of one is a doctor no doctor can ethically diagnose what you have from internet posts, and no competent doctor would trust a diagnosis mde without exams and tests.

Once you have a diagnosis that seems correct, and you are under medical treament, if you have practical issues dealing it, if your doctor isn’t as helpful as you’d like, then folks here can share what they do for those issues in a hopeflly helpful way.

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