What are the Four Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the lesser known complications of diabetes – a common metabolic disorder characterized by the body’s inability to control its blood sugar levels. The trouble with diabetic retinopathy is that it usually develops slowly, with hardly any symptoms manifesting until the condition is quite well advanced. Patients who have diabetes are recommended to undergo regular screening exams where your eye doctor in Las Vegas, NV can assess the structures inside your eye to determine if you are being affected. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential to preserve your long-term vision.  


Here’s what you need to know about the four stages of diabetic retinopathy and what you can do to reduce your risk of developing this complication of diabetes.   


Mild, nonproliferative retinopathy.


Also known as background retinopathy, this is the mildest stage of the condition. During this stage, your eye doctor may be able to see small areas of balloon-like swelling in the blood vessels of the retina. Called microaneurysms, they can cause the blood vessels to leak a little into the retina. While this is detectable at a diabetic eye screening, it’s not enough to affect your vision.


Moderate, nonproliferative retinopathy.


Also known as pre-proliferative retinopathy, at this slightly more advanced stage, the blood vessels of the retina swell up, affecting blood flow and causing damage to the retina. Blood and other fluids can also accumulate in the macula, found in the central part of the retina and this can affect your vision.  


Severe, nonproliferative retinopathy.


At this stage, the blood vessels serving the retina become even more congested, limiting blood flow and leading to blurry vision with dark spots in the field of vision, known as floaters. Vision loss worsens.


Proliferative diabetic retinopathy.


The most advanced stage of the condition sees the retina triggering the growth of abnormal and fragile new blood vessels that grow along the retina and the surface of clear, vitreous gel present inside the eyes. These leak significant amounts of blood into the retina, and this may cause permanent scarring, severe vision loss and even blindness.


What can I do to reduce my risk of diabetic retinopathy?


Fortunately, there are things that you can do that can limit the likelihood that you will develop diabetic retinopathy. The most important is to make sure that your diabetes is well-controlled, either through diet, medication, or a combination of the two. Your eye doctor will be able to support you with this. Some of the other things that you can do include:

  • Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Not smoking or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol

  • Eating a nutritious diet, limiting your intake of fatty, salty, and processed foods

  • Visiting your eye doctor for regular diabetic eye screening appointments



If you’d like more information about diabetic retinopathy or how to prevent it, our dedicated team of eyecare experts at Advanced Vision Institute would be happy to help. Call us today at (702) 819-9800 to speak to us or to schedule an appointment.

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