The Risks and Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the primary cause of vision loss in patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. This progressive eye disease causes the blood vessels that supply your retina to become damaged, leaking blood and other deposits. In turn, this leaked fluid can cause retinal swelling, leading to vision problems and even blindness if left untreated. In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy often has no noticeable symptoms.

Risk Factors for Diabetic Retinopathy

Your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy goes up the longer you have had type 1 or type 2 diabetes and the less you control your blood sugar levels. You may also be at an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Use tobacco
  • Have high cholesterol

Careful management of diabetes is important in order to minimize your risk of diabetic retinopathy.

Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

The four stages of diabetic retinopathy are classified as mild, moderate, and severe nonproliferative and proliferative.

  • Mild: balloon-like swelling in small areas of the blood vessels in the retina.
  • Moderate: some of the blood vessels in the retina will become blocked.
  • Severe Nonproliferative: more blocked blood vessels, which leads to areas of the retina no longer receiving adequate blood flow. Without proper blood flow, the retina can’t grow new blood vessels to replace the damaged ones.
  • Proliferative Retinopathy: This is the advanced stage of the disease. Additional new blood vessels will begin to grow in the retina, but they will be fragile and abnormal. Because of this, they can leak blood which will lead to vision loss and possibly blindness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as 50 percents of patients with diabetic retinopathy are not getting their eyes examined or are diagnosed too late for treatment to be effective.

If you have diabetes, Dr. Brooks can help you protect your eyes against the consequences of diabetic retinopathy and other related eye diseases. Please contact us at Brooks Eye Associates or call (972) 403-1110 to schedule an appointment. We serve patients throughout Plano, Frisco, and Dallas, Texas.