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Diabetic retinopathy is an incurable but preventable side effect of type 1 and type 2 diabetes that interferes with the function of the eyes. High blood sugar levels from diabetes can interfere with the blood vessels in the back of the eyes and cause irreversible damage. If blood sugar levels are left untreated, patients risk developing total permanent blindness.

The main treatment for diabetic retinopathy is blood sugar control and proper management of your diabetes. If left unmanaged, your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy can significantly increase.

Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

There are two main phases of diabetic retinopathy:

Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy begins to develop in this stage with zero or barely noticeable signs to the patient:

  • High blood sugar levels weaken blood vessels in the retina
  • Weakened vessels develop microaneurysms or small bulges
  • Fluid from the microaneurysms can leak into the retina
  • Leakage causes macular swelling

Even though non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy progresses in stages, patients tend not to experience symptoms that would indicate the need for treatment. This is why regular comprehensive eye exams are crucial for lasting vision health.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy

Once diabetic retinopathy progresses beyond the non-proliferative stage, it takes the form of proliferative diabetic retinopathy:

  • Damaged blood vessels create oxygen deprivation in the retina
  • Smaller, more fragile blood vessels branch out from the original vessels and into the eye’s fluid (aka, the vitreous)
  • These new, fragile vessels leak blood into the vitreous and cause vision clouding
  • Glaucoma can develop due to fluid and pressure buildup in the eye
  • The retina can detach from the back of the eye, creating a medical emergency that will lead to permanent vision loss if not treated in time

To protect yourself from all stages of diabetic retinopathy, rely on the ophthalmological care at Eyesight Associates.

Our doctors can evaluate your eye conditions and create effective action plans to slow or prevent further development of diabetic retinopathy. Stay on top of your overall health and schedule a comprehensive eye exam with us today: 478-923-5872

Thank you for reading the final article in our Low Vision series. If you missed any of the previous articles, or if you want to revisit a topic, check them out here: