What Are the Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy?

People who have diabetes may develop diabetic retinopathy, a condition brought about by damaged blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue of the retina. High blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels. For people with diabetes, diabetic retinopathy can cause vision problems, vision loss, or complete blindness.

Almost 50 percent of people with diabetes have it. It is possible to keep from having it, and there are also ways to slow it down. If you are in the early stage of the condition, you may not have symptoms to show you have it. Diabetic retinopathy has four phases.


 

Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy


The first stage of the disease also goes by the name background retinopathy. At this stage, the small vessels of blood in the retina develop small bulges called microaneurysms. The blood vessels can leak some blood into the retina.


You may not need treatment at this early stage because your vision is likely to be okay. Your doctor can advise you on what you can do to manage your condition. Your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels must be under control at this stage.


A screening is ideal after 12 months. If the doctor diagnoses you with the condition, there is a 25 percent chance of it moving to the third stage after three years of the diagnosis.


 

Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy


This second stage is also called pre-proliferative retinopathy. In this stage, the blood vessels found at the back of your eye swell. Swelling can alter how they carry blood, and this can cause physical changes to your retina.


The changes can cause diabetic macular edema. Diabetic macular edema happens when other fluids and blood build up in the macula. The macula is a part of your retina that is responsible for the vision in the direct sightline. The swelling of the macular can cause alteration to this kind of vision.


Half of the people suffering from diabetic retinopathy get diabetic macular edema. Reaching the second stage is an indication that the disease is likely to affect your vision. Your doctor may advise you to get eye tests and examinations every three to six months.


 

Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy


This is the third stage of the condition. It is also called proliferative retinopathy. The blood vessels in your retina get more blocked, causing less blood to reach the retina.  


Scar tissue forms because of the blockage. If there is complete blockage of the blood vessels, you can experience blurry vision with floaters. If you reach the third stage, you are likely to experience vision loss.


 

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR) Symptoms


PDR is the advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. Neovascularization happens when blood vessels begin to grow inside your retina and into the fluid-like gel inside your eyes. The growing blood vessels are weak and thin and bleed most of the time. The bleeding causes scar tissue.


As the scar tissue becomes small, retinal detachment happens. As a result, permanent loss of your side and straight-ahead vision occurs.


 

When to See a Doctor


The best way to prevent vision loss is through the careful management of diabetes. People with diabetes should habitually see their doctor for eye exams with dilation even if their vision is fine. Contact your doctor immediately if you suddenly experience vision changes.



For more on the stages of diabetic retinopathy, visit Grove Eye Care at our office in Richmond or Midlothian, Virginia. You can also call (804) 353-3937 or (804) 888-8998 to book an appointment today.

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