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Understanding the 4 Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Understanding the 4 Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is a disease that affects millions of people and results from high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Also known as glucose, blood sugar provides fuel to energize your body’s cells. 

However, diabetes occurs when there is too much blood sugar in your bloodstream. This condition can lead to numerous dangerous complications and damage to a variety of organs and tissue including your nerves, kidneys, feet, and eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is a severe eye condition caused by diabetes that can lead to limited vision and even blindness. 

This disease comes in stages, so to understand the ways this disease develops, let’s examine what diabetes does to your eyes, the four stages of this condition, and how it is treated. If you live in the Pelham Gardens area of Bronx, New York, the extensive medical team at Bronx Eye Associates can help with diabetic retinopathy or other eye disorders.

How diabetes affects your eyes

If you’re diabetic, then it means you have too much blood sugar in your veins compared to insulin (a hormone created by your pancreas to regulate the blood sugar in your bloodstream). This can lead to damage in many areas including the blood vessels in your retina

Your retina detects light and transmits signals to the brain through the optic nerve. If excess sugar gets into those blood vessels, it can cause bleeding, leakage, or create new weaker blood vessels that leak and bleed more easily.

If these vessels are hyperglycemic for long periods of time, they can accumulate fluid, changing the shape and curve of your eye and leading to vision changes.

The stages of diabetic retinopathy

This condition presents in four stages:

1. Mild nonproliferative

The first stage of the condition is where you experience microaneurysms, tiny areas of swelling in the retinal blood vessels. It is also possible for small amounts of fluid to leak into the retina during this stage, causing macular swelling.

2. Moderate nonproliferative

During this stage, the swelling in the retinal blood vessels creates problems for blood flow which keeps them from getting the nutrients they need to function properly. It also creates the environment for the accumulation of fluids in the macula.

3. Severe nonproliferative

At this point, blockages are taking place in the retinal vessels, greatly reducing blood flow. The body triggers the growth of new, weaker blood vessels.

4. Proliferative

In this advanced stage, the weaker retinal vessels cause leakages, which leads to blurry vision, limited vision, and even blindness.

Prevention and treatment

As a diabetic reaction triggers diabetic retinopathy, treating the underlying condition is the place to start. Control your blood sugar and make lifestyle changes to help manage your diabetes. Take your prescribed diabetic medications as needed. This helps a great deal during the early stages of diabetic retinopathy.

If you are at a point where you’ve sustained eye damage, there are treatment options including medications, laser surgery (photocoagulation), or a surgery called a vitrectomy which can remove scar tissue, blood, some vitreous gel, and other fluids to improve vision.

Diabetic retinopathy can lead to impaired vision or blindness, but help is possible. Make an appointment with the medical team at Bronx Eye Associates today to get treatment.

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