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Understanding the Four Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Mar 20, 2017 @ 11:00 AM — by Retina Associates, P.A.
Tagged with: Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathyWhenever our Kansas City eye care specialists deal with retinal conditions, we always put an emphasis on prevention, management, and patient education. We hope to simultaneously prevent major vision loss while empowering patients to help manage their eyesight and general wellness.

When it comes to diabetic retinopathy, it's important that we halt the progression of the condition so it does not progress beyond its early stages. We'd like to discuss the four stages of the condition and what treatments are available.

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is a type of vision loss that affects people who suffer from diabetes. The condition involves the blood vessels of the retina becoming blocked as a result of high blood sugar levels. When this happens, blood and other fluids may leak onto the retina, leading to varying degrees of vision loss.

How Common Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is more common in people who have had diabetes for many years. It's estimated that 84 percent of people who have had Type 2 diabetes for at least 19 years will develop diabetic retinopathy. For all cases of diabetes, around 45 percent of them will develop some form of diabetic retinopathy.

Stage One: Mild Non-Proliferative Retinopathy

Mild non-proliferative retinopathy is the first and earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy. It is characterized by small, balloon-like swelling of the blood vessels in the retina. These are known as microaneurysms.

Stage Two: Moderate Non-Proliferative Retinopathy

Moderate non-proliferative retinopathy is the second stage of diabetic retinopathy. During this point of the condition, the blood vessels of the retina have become blocked.

Stage Three: Severe Non-Proliferative Retinopathy

Severe non-proliferative retinopathy is the third stage of diabetic retinopathy. When this third stage of the condition occurs, the block blood vessels deprive the retina of its regular blood supply. To compensate for this, the retina begins to grow new blood vessels. These new blood vessels are unfortunately weaker than the blocked blood vessels.

Stage Four: Proliferative Retinopathy

The final stage of diabetic retinopathy is known as proliferative retinopathy. As we noted above, the new blood vessels are more fragile than the existing blood vessels of the retina. The new blood vessels develop abnormally and are prone to leaking in the retina. This can result in vision loss and damage to the retina.

Treating and Managing Diabetic Retinopathy

Diagnosing and treating diabetic retinopathy is much easier in early stages than in later stages. The best case scenario is slowing the progression of the condition so it does not reach the third and fourth stages.

To manage the condition, people with diabetes must properly manage their blood sugar levels. A proper diet and regular physical activity can also help address the various health issues associated with diabetes and keep diabetic retinopathy from progressing or even developing.

Should diabetic retinopathy occur, medication, laser therapy, and vitrectomy can help reduce the rate and extent of your vision loss. Treatments can be discussed in more detail with our team.

Learn More About Diabetic Retinopathy

To learn more about diabetic retinopathy and how it can be properly treated, be sure to contact our advanced eye care and vision correction center today. Our team of eye care specialists looks forward to your visit and discussing treatment options with you in greater detail.

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