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What Are The Four Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy


Treating And Managing Diabetic Retinopathy

What are diabetic retinopathy symptoms?

Diagnosing and treating diabetic retinopathy is much easier in early stages than in later stages. The best case scenario is slowing the progression of the condition so it does not reach the third and fourth stages.

To manage the condition, people with diabetes must properly manage their blood sugar levels. A proper diet and regular physical activity can also help address the various health issues associated with diabetes and keep diabetic retinopathy from progressing or even developing.

Should diabetic retinopathy occur, medication, laser therapy, and vitrectomy can help reduce the rate and extent of your vision loss. Treatments can be discussed in more detail with our team.

The Four Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is a widely recognized disease, with its most common subsequent health risks well known to the public. However, diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease diabetics are vulnerable to, is not as well-recognized as other diabetic complications, often leading to many cases of preventable blindness. Nearly all patients with type 1 diabetes and > 60% of patients with type 2 diabetes have some form of retinopathy. The disease has four main stages that are more easily treatable when detected early on, especially through preventative measures.


According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that occurs when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. The affected blood vessels can sometimes swell and leak, or they can close, which causes a blockage and prevents blood from passing through.

Early detection is vital to a patients eye health and to avoiding the most severe stages of diabetic retinopathy. The ability to efficiently and effectively detect the disease makes an immense difference. Below is a look at the risks that come with diabetic retinopathy stages, how each stage manifests itself, and what medical solutions exist to prevent this from occurring.

African Americans And Hispanics And Diabetic Retinopathy

Certain minority groups are disproportionately affected by diabetic retinopathy. According to a 2017 review published in International Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, African American and Hispanic populations are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop visually significant complications from diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

An estimated 800,000 African Americans have diabetic retinopathy, and that number is projected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030, the National Eye Institute reports.

One reason African Americans are at greater risk for diabetic retinopathy is that they are at an increased risk for developing diabetes, Dr. Singh says.


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How To Treat Diabetic Retinopathy

While diabetic retinopathy may lead to irreversible vision loss, successfully managing your blood sugar levels can help prevent loss of vision. This includes watching your diet, increasing physical activity, and taking diabetes medication as directed.

Other treatments depend on the stage or extent of the disease. If caught very early before damage to the retina occurs blood sugar management might be the only treatment necessary.

If youre in a nonproliferative stage but experience some eye damage, treatment options might include:

  • Eye injections A steroid injection in the eye to stop inflammation and prevent new blood vessels from forming. Anti-VEGF injections may also be recommended, which can reduce swelling in the macula and improve vision.
  • Laser surgery Laser surgery called photocoagulation reduces swelling in the retina and removes abnormal blood vessels.
  • Vitrectomy If you are in the later stages of diabetic retinopathy, you might need a vitrectomy. This eye surgery treats problems with the retina and vitreous, a jelly-like substance in the middle of the eye. The surgery can remove blood or fluid, scar tissue, and some of the vitreous gel so light rays can focus properly on the retina. Retinal detachments can be corrected at the same time.

Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially serious eye disease that can result in permanent distorted vision or vision loss. Preserve your vision by contacting to schedule your comprehensive eye exam today.


What Are Ways To Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy

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Preventing diabetic retinopathy starts with managing blood sugar.

This involves managing diabetes with medication, balanced eating habits, and regular physical activity. You should also monitor your blood sugar on a regular basis and speak with your doctor if your levels are difficult to manage.

A healthy diet consists of:

  • skin conditions

It may also lead to other conditions involving significant vision loss or blindness, such as:

  • Macular edema: an accumulation of fluid in the center of the retina, causing swelling and distorted vision
  • Retinal detachment: a condition where the retina pulls away from supportive tissue in the eye
  • Neovascular glaucoma: a type of secondary glaucoma where new blood vessels grow on the angle of the eye, preventing the drainage of eye fluids
  • Vitreous hemorrhage: new blood vessels bleed and completely block vision

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The 4 Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that develops when high blood sugar damages the tiny fragile blood vessels in the retina of people living with diabetes.

This progressive eye disease may lead to blurred vision or even irreversible vision loss. Regular eye exams are important, because, by the time noticeable symptoms appear, vision loss may have occurred. The sooner your eye doctor can diagnose diabetic retinopathy, the sooner you can take steps to slow its progression.

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8 mins readRetinopathy of prematurity There are no outward physical signs, one of the most common forms of retinopathy, In the first stage, Only an experienced ophthalmologist can find signs of this illness.Diabetic retinopathy Symptoms may not be noticed until the late stages of the illness, Other Types & Treatment

Diabetic retinopathy: People with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy, often overlaps the other stages

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Stage : Talk With An Eye Specialist About Diabetic Retinopathy

The sooner diabetic retinopathy is caught and diagnosed, the better your body will respond to treatment. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, it is wise to routinely consult with an expert at Eye Center of Texas to check for any signs of diabetic eye disease.

While there, you can also ask other vision-related questions, such as Now that I have diabetes, is my vision too bad for LASIK? and receive answers from the experts who provide some of the best LASIK in Houston.

Diabetes doesnt have to lead to blindness. Make Eye Center of Texas part of your vision of the future. To meet with one of our doctors at our six Houston-area locations, call us at 713-797-1010 or request an appointment online today.

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How Will My Eye Doctor Check For Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Eye doctors can check for diabetic retinopathy as part of a dilated eye exam. The exam is simple and painless your doctor will give you some eye drops to dilate your pupil and then check your eyes for diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems.


If you have diabetes, its very important to get regular eye exams. If you do develop diabetic retinopathy, early treatment can stop the damage and prevent blindness.

If your eye doctor thinks you may have severe diabetic retinopathy or DME, they may do a test called a fluorescein angiogram. This test lets the doctor see pictures of the blood vessels in your retina.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetic Retinopathy

DR progresses through four stages, each of which is associated with different symptoms.

In the early stages, DR often does not have noticeable symptoms, so the disease often goes undetected until it affects vision.


Bleeding from damaged blood vessels in the retina can cause you to see floaters, or spots that appear across your field of vision. Floaters sometimes clear on their own.

But if you experience floaters or any other type of blurred vision or vision loss and have one of the underlying conditions that can cause retinopathy, check with your doctor.

The stages of diabetic retinopathy are:

Mild nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy In this stage, small areas of balloon-like swelling called microaneurysms form in the retinal blood vessels and may leak fluid into the retina.

Moderate NPDR As the disease progresses, blood vessels that provide important nourishment to the retina may swell and lose their ability to transport blood.


During this stage, the appearance of the retina may change as a result of these symptoms. But these changes would only be visible to your eye doctor during a comprehensive eye exam.

Untreated moderate NPDR may lead to diabetic macular edema, or swelling in the macular region of the retina, which can cause serious vision loss.

Mild and moderate NPDR are sometimes grouped together as early DR.

Severe NPDR In this stage, the blood supply to the retina is disrupted, leading to more damage in the blood vessels.

Understanding The Four Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathyby Retina Associates Pa On March 20 2017

Whenever our Kansas City eye care specialists deal with retinal conditions, we always put an emphasis on prevention, management, and patient education. We hope to simultaneously prevent major vision loss while empowering patients to help manage their eyesight and general wellness.


When it comes to diabetic retinopathy, it’s important that we halt the progression of the condition so it does not progress beyond its early stages. We’d like to discuss the four stages of the condition and what treatments are available.

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What To Look For

Patients with NPDR generally present with hemorrhages of varying sizes, microaneurysms , hard exudates, soft exudates intraretinal microvascular abnormalities , and venous looping or beading.2,5,6 MAs are saccular outpouchings of retinal capillaries that have been weakened by a loss of intramural pericytes.4 The weakened capillary walls can leak or rupture, causing hemorrhages.2 IRMAs are either new vessel growth within the retina or preexisting vessels with proliferative endothelial cells that are moving through areas of nonperfusion. Presence of IRMA indicates ischemia and is a precursor to neovascularization.2 Venous looping and beading are caused by severe retinal hypoxia and indicate an increased risk for progression to neovascularization.2 When patients with diabetes are in your chair, its important to gather as much information about their condition as possible .

When To See A Doctor

What Are The Four Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy ...

If you have diabetes, make an appointment to see an eye care specialist such as an ophthalmologist at least once a year, or as often as your doctor recommends.

You should also see your doctor if your glucose level remains high despite medication and other changes, or if you notice any changes in vision, even if they are subtle.


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The Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy

There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy. In the early stages of the disease, there may be no changes to your vision.

  • Mild nonproliferative retinopathy: In the first stage, small dilated pouches called microaneurysms develop in the blood vessels of the retina. They may leak fluid into the tissue.

  • Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy: Blood vessels in the retina continue to narrow and may even become blocked, interfering with their ability to deliver blood to the retina. The blood vessel walls lose their integrity. This can also cause a build-up of fluid in a part of the retina known as the macula, leading to the development of a condition called diabetic macular , in which abnormal blood vessels leak fluid into the eye, causing blurry vision and eventually blindness if untreated.

  • Severe nonproliferative retinopathy: As the disease progresses, an increasing number of blood vessels in the retina are damaged and blocked. This signals the retina to grow new blood vessels, leading to the next stage of diabetic retinopathy.

  • Proliferative diabetic retinopathy: In this advanced stage, new abnormal blood vessels are seen within the retina and the vitreous gel, the jelly-like fluid that fills the eyeball. These vessels tend to be fragile, leaking more blood and fluid into the retina and vitreous. Scars and membranes may develop that can cause the retina to tear or detach. Significant vision problems or blindness can occur as a result.

  • Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment & Prevention:

    The question about diabetic retinopathy we most often hear after, What are the four stages of diabetic retinopathy? is, Is diabetic retinopathy reversible or treatable?

    While diabetic retinopathy is not reversible, it is highly treatable. Active, regular, and proper management of your diabetes, blood sugar, and blood pressure can significantly reduce the chances of experiencing blindness.

    Many patients are also eligible for diabetic retinopathy surgery. Called laser photocoagulation, this procedure can be performed in-office in less than 30 minutes. During the procedure, a laser is used to target leaking blood vessels, sealing them or destroying them before they can cause further vision problems.


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    How Does Diabetic Retinopathy Cause Vision Loss

    Blood vessels damaged from Diabetic Retinopathy can cause vision loss in two ways:

  • Fragile, abnormal blood vessels can develop and leak blood into the center of the eye, blurring vision. This is proliferative retinopathy and is the fourth and most advanced stage of the disease.
  • Fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This condition is called Macular Edema. It can happen at any stage of Diabetic Retinopathy, although it is more likely to occur as the disease progresses. About half of the people with proliferative retinopathy also have Macular Edema.
  • Other Types Of Diabetic Eye Disease

    Diabetic Retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes. But diabetes can also make you more likely to develop several other eye conditions:

    • Cataracts. Having diabetes makes you 2 to 5 times more likely to develop cataracts. It also makes you more likely to get them at a younger age. Learn more about cataracts.
    • Open-angle glaucoma. Having diabetes nearly doubles your risk of developing a type of glaucoma called open-angle glaucoma. Learn more about glaucoma.

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    Treatment Of Diabetic Retinopathy

    Your doctor will likely watch your condition until you’re close to the latest stage or get DME. When that happens, there are several treatments you can try. Your doctor may give you a shot in the fluid of your eyes to keep abnormal blood vessels from growing. They may also suggest laser surgery. They may also give you a shot or an implant of steroid drugs directly into your eye. You may need more than one of these treatments at the same time.


    WebMD Medical Reference

    How Is A Macular Edema Treated

    Macular Edema is treated with laser surgery. This procedure is called focal laser photocoagulation. Your doctor places up to several hundred small laser burns in the areas of retinal leakage surrounding the macula. These burns slow the leakage of fluid and reduce the amount of fluid in the retina. The surgery is usually completed in one session. Further treatment may be needed.

    A patient may need focal laser surgery more than once to control the leaking fluid. If you have Macular Edema in both eyes and require laser surgery, generally only one eye will be treated at a time, usually several weeks apart.

    Focal laser photocoagulation stabilizes vision. In fact, it reduces the risk of vision loss by 50 percent.

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    Favorite Resource For Diet Advice

    Sticking to healthy eating habits is necessary to maintain control over your diabetes and prevent complications like vision loss, but it can often be difficult. Thats where OnTrack Diabetes comes in. The site offers hundreds of diabetes-friendly recipes created by award-winning cookbook authors Frances Towner Giedt and Bonnie Sanders Polin, PhD, that are sure to satisfy your taste buds while keeping your blood sugar in check.

    Stage : Background Retinopathy

    Diabetic Retinopathy

    This means that tiny bulges have appeared in the blood vessels in the back of your eyes , which may leak small amounts of blood. This is very common in people with diabetes.

    At this stage:

    • your sight isn’t affected, although you’re at a higher risk of developing vision problems in the future
    • you don’t need treatment, but you’ll need to take care to prevent the problem getting worse read more about preventing diabetic retinopathy
    • the chances of it progressing to the stages below within 3 years are more than 25% if both of your eyes are affected

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    What Is Diabetic Retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that affects a person with diabetes. This happens when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. In some, the blood vessels swell and leak or can obstruct the blood flow whereas, in some, there may be a growth of abnormal new vessels on the surface of the retina. All these changes can lead to vision loss or permanent blindness. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.

    Diabetic Retinopathy: The Four Stages

    Diabetic Retinopathy is damage to the retina from poor blood sugar control. All types of chronic diabetes can cause retinal damage. The retina, at the back of the eye, is neural tissue. Tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, in the retina swell and leak. How often should diabetic patients visit their eye doctors? What are the four stages of diabetic retinopathy?

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