Diabetic Retinopathy is caused by damaged blood vessels to the retina and is the most common eye disease among diabetic patients. Blood vessels may swell and leak fluid in some people with diabetic retinopathy, and in other people abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. If you have diabetic retinopathy you man not notice any changes to your vision at first, but over time it can get worse and cause vision loss and/or lead to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy has four stages:
- Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy
- In the first stage, microaneurysms occur. They are small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina’s tiny blood vessels.
- Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy
- As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that provide nourishment to the retina are blocked.
- Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy
- Many blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina with blood supply and nourishment. These areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels for nourishment.
- Proliferative Retinopathy
- At this advanced stage the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. This condition is called proliferative retinopathy, and these new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. They grow along the retina and along the surface of the clear vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye. By themselves, these blood vessels do not cause symptoms or vision loss. However, they have thin, fragile walls, and if they leak blood severe vision loss and even blindness can result.
Depending on the stage of retinopathy, treatment options can vary from monitoring, laser, and ocular injections in certain advanced cases. It is important to have regular comprehensive dilated eye exams to ensure early detection and treatment when indicated.