4 Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy

Dr. Mai-Vy Hoang 11/21/2016

diabetic-retinopathy-diagram.pngDiabetic eye disease affects people who have diabetes and has the potential to cause severe vision loss and glaucoma. Of the various types of diabetic eye conditions, diabetic retinopathy is the most common and one of the leading causes of blindness. Additionally, people with diabetic retinopathy may not know they have the disease until their vision becomes impaired.

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy develops in people who suffer from elevated levels of blood sugar for prolonged periods of time, which damages delicate blood vessels in the eye. Your eyes are often able to regenerate these vessels but the vessels are weak and can hemorrhage or leak easily.

In the most advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, abnormal blood vessels increase on the surface of the retina and can lead to scarring and cell loss.

What Are The Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy has four stages:

1. Mild nonproliferative retinopathy: This is the earliest stage of the disease when small areas of swelling in the retina occur. These areas leak fluid into the retina.

2. Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy: Blood vessels that nourish the retina can swell and distort as the disease progresses, as well as lose their ability to transport blood. In both cases, there are characteristic changes to the appearance of the retina.

3. Severe nonproliferative retinopathy: At this stage of the disease, an increasing number of blood vessels become blocked, depriving blood supply to areas of the retina.

4. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy: The most advanced stage, PDR is the result of blood vessels that grow on the inside surface of the retina and into the fluid (vitreous gel) that fills the eye. These fragile new blood vessels are more likely to bleed and leak. The accompanying scar tissue can cause retinal detachment - which can lead to permanent vision loss.

Who’s At Risk For Diabetic Retinopathy?

Anyone with diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy and the risk of having it increases the longer you have diabetes. Up to 45 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy but only about half are aware of it. Also at risk are women who already have diabetes or develop it during pregnancy. This can cause rapid onset of diabetic retinopathy or worsen already existing conditions.

Detecting diabetic retinopathy early is your best defense against the disease. The eye doctors at Broome Optical of Amarillo provide treatment plans for retinopathy and strongly encourage comprehensive yearly eye exams.

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