Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease in which uncontrolled blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the tissues at the back of the eye. It can cause blurry or distorted vision, visual disturbances like floaters and spots, difficulty perceiving color, and blindness. Below, learn more about the various stages of diabetic retinopathy and a few screening and treatment options.
Stages & Effects
There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy, with each one having a progressively more severe impact on the blood vessels of the retina.
- Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy: Dilated capillaries in the back of the eye are the first indicator of diabetic retinopathy, but these dilations rarely cause symptoms, so this stage often goes undetected.
- Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy: The blood vessels in the retina start to swell, and your eye doctor will likely recommend more frequent exams to monitor the condition of your eyes. Symptoms like blurry or distorted vision may still be nonexistent or mild.
- Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy: The swelling blocks the blood vessels, significantly decreasing blood flow to the eyes. There is often blurry vision or vision compromised by dark spots called floaters that follow this.
- Proliferative Retinopathy: Weak, abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina, increasing the risk of blood leaking into the eye. Symptoms at this late stage include worsening vision problems and blindness.
Like many eye diseases, you can often detect diabetic retinopathy during a dilated eye exam. Dilation eye drops widen the pupils, so the doctor can better see blood vessels and signs of bleeding. They will also perform various tests, including vision testing, glaucoma screening, and imaging that takes pictures of the eyes and the thickness of the retina.
In the earlier stages of diabetic retinopathy, no aggressive treatment is usually necessary. Your doctor will recommend more frequent monitoring and suggest ways to help control blood sugar. In the later stages, the doctor may perform laser surgery to slow the leakage of blood and fluid from the eye or shrink abnormal blood vessels.
Another option is a vitrectomy, in which the doctor makes a small incision in the eye and removes blood and scar tissue buildup. In some cases, the doctor may inject medicine directly into the eye to stop the growth of new blood vessels.
If you have diabetes, prioritize seeing your eye doctor so they can monitor this potentially severe eye disease. EyeCare One has been serving the West Chester, Liberty Township, and Mason, OH, area for over 20 years. They offer glasses, contact lenses, and testing and treatment for eye diseases. Call (513) 755-7775 to schedule an exam today. Visit the website for more information about their services.