What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.
In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In others, normal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. In the disease's early stages, a person may not notice changes to his or her vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. The pictures below show how person with diabetic retinopathy sees:
What are the stages of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy has four stages:
- Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy. At this stage, microaneurysms occur. They are small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina's tiny blood vessels.
- Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy. This stage is when blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.
- Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy. In this stage,Many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina with their blood supply. 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. 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. If they leak blood, severe vision loss and even blindness can result.