Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

By Walter Choate on October 28, 2019

Effect of diabetes on vision and eye healthDiabetic retinopathy is a form of vision loss experienced by people who suffer from diabetes. The condition occurs when high levels of blood sugar lead to damage of the blood vessels within the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. As the condition progresses, it can result in vision loss. In advanced cases of diabetic retinopathy, patients may experience blindness.

Dr. Walter Choate would like to cover some of the basics about diabetic retinopathy and how it progresses. If you live in Nashville, TN and suffer from diabetes, this information could help you avoid the loss of your eyesight.

Know the Signs and Symptoms

The longer a person suffers from diabetes or neglects to manage their diabetes, the more likely they are to develop advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy. We encourage you to note the following signs and symptoms of diabetic retinopathy:

  • Floaters in your visual field
  • Blurring vision
  • Fluctuations in vision quality
  • Impaired color perception
  • Empty areas in your field of vision
  • Gradual vision loss

Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy

During this first stage of diabetic retinopathy, small blockages and bulges develop in the blood vessels of the retinas. These bulges are known as microaneurysms. These microaneurysms eventually leak, causing blood to accumulate in the retinas.

While vision loss during this early stage of diabetic retinopathy is unlikely, it’s important to manage your diabetes to prevent future vision loss. If we’re able to diagnose diabetic retinopathy early at our Nashville practice, that can help you preserve your eyesight for years to come.

Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy

During the second stage of diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels of the retinas become swollen. These blood vessels may not convey blood as well as they used to as a result of the condition. The steady accumulation of blood can cause a diabetic macular edema (DME), which affects the central portion of the retina.

While vision loss still doesn’t occur at this second stage, you become far more likely to experience a progression of the disease and eventually lose your vision.

Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy

During the third phase of diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessel become blocked and fail to function properly. Scar tissue might form along the retina. This causes your body to create new blood vessels in the retinas as a response, which are weaker than the original blood vessels.

Vision loss is likely by this stage of diabetic retinopathy. Typically people notice blurrier vision and the increased presence of floaters.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy

During the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, the weaker tiny blood vessels in the retina leak. This results in more accumulation of blood and more scar tissue in the retinas.

As more scar tissue develops, it increases the risk of retinal tears and retinal detachment. Tears and detachment of the retina can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated promptly.

When Should I See an Eye Doctor?

If you have diabetes, it’s important that you visit your general practitioner regularly to help you control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and general wellness. You will want to visit the eye doctor regularly to help catch diabetic retinopathy in its earliest stages if possible.

Learn More About Diabetic Retinopathy

To learn more about the progression of diabetic retinopathy and what risk factors to be mindful of, be sure to contact a skilled eye care specialist. Choate Eye Associates can be reached in Nashville by phone at (615) 805-0712.

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