What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy has four stages:
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.
Who is at risk for diabetic retinopathy?
All people with diabetes—both type 1 and type 2—are at risk. That's why everyone with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Between 40 to 45% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy and up to 25% of newly diagnosed type 2 patients will already have retinopathy at diagnosis. If you have diabetic retinopathy, your doctor can recommend treatment to help prevent its progression.
During pregnancy, diabetic retinopathy may be a problem for women with diabetes before conception. To protect vision, every pregnant woman with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam as soon as possible. Your doctor may recommend additional exams during your pregnancy.
How does diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss?
Vitreous hemorrhage and traction retinal detachment caused by proliferative retinopathy can both cause vision loss. Blood vessels damaged from diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss in two ways:
Does diabetic retinopathy have any symptoms?
Diabetic retinopathy often has no early warning signs. Don't wait for symptoms. Be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
What are the symptoms of proliferative retinopathy if bleeding occurs?
Patients often see a few specks of blood, red smudges or spots obscuring or "floating" in their vision. If this occurs, see your eye care professional as soon as possible. You may need treatment before more serious bleeding occurs. Hemorrhages tend to happen more than once, often during sleep.
Sometimes, without treatment, the spots clear, and you will see better. However, bleeding can reoccur and cause severely blurred vision. You need to be examined by your eye care professional at the first sign of blurred vision, before more bleeding occurs.
If left untreated, proliferative retinopathy can cause severe vision loss and even blindness. Also, the earlier you receive treatment, the more likely treatment will be effective.
Reviewed by Dr. A. Paul Chous, MA OD, FAAO. 4/12
Excerpted from the National Eye Institute, NIH Publication No.03-2171
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