Understanding Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a primary cause of adult blindness in the US. The disease refers to a condition that affects your eye’s back area, responsible for converting light into images.

This area is called the retina and may be affected by swelling of vessels, bursting of vessels, and bleeding, making it difficult for you to see, leading to blindness. High blood sugar affects blood vessels in the retina, causing them to swell and bleed, leading to blindness if left untreated.  This condition must be treated by a professional eye care provider.  You can click over here to get a list of providers in your area.

Stages of diabetic retinopathy

In the initial stages, diabetic retinopathy has no significant symptoms, resulting in slight, blurry visions that further develop with time. The condition has two significant steps and affects individuals suffering from type one and two diabetes. The two diabetic retinopathy stages include;

  • NPDR (Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy
  • PDR (Prolific diabetic retinopathy


Non-proliferative retinopathy has three steps that are either mild, moderate, or severe. Depending on the intensity of your NPDR, a patient with diabetes will go from mild blurriness to full-blown short-sightedness or loss of vision. NPDR occurs when tiny blood vessels located in the retina bleed.

The blood vessels cause the macula, which is the yellow area in your retina responsible for the strongest vision, to swell in macular condition edema, a common cause of vision loss across diabetic patients. The condition can also get experienced by the closure of blood vessels known as macular ischemia, a condition where blood cannot reach the macular, making your vision blurry.


Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is an advanced diabetic eye disease case characterized by neovascularization. This refers to the retina growing new blood vessels. The danger with this is the bleeding blocks your vision, and especially if they bleed a lot, then your eye is completely blocked, hindering you from seeing anything.

The new blood vessels that often bleed cause scar tissues that affect the retina and macula, leading to vision loss. This stage of diabetic eye disease is severe and can cause irreversible damage.

Retinopathy treatment

Depending on how severe your eye problem is will determine which retinopathy treatment option gets enlisted. Some of the treatment options include;

Laser treatment

The use of laser treatment occurs in severe cases of diabetic retinopathy. The laser treatment regulates new blood vessels’ growth or seals off bleeding vessels in the retina. The use of laser treatment also shrinks blood vessels and prevents them from growing, protecting the macula, and correcting any swelling of blood vessels around the area.

During the laser treatment, a doctor can either perform photocoagulation or pan-retinal photocoagulation. Photocoagulation, which is focal laser treatment, stops or slows leakage of blood or fluid to the eye through laser burns that drain the fluid and patch the areas, preventing macular edema from worsening.

The procedure is done in one sitting and may not return your sight but goes a long way to improving them. Pan retinal photocoagulation treats abnormal blood vessels found in the retina away from the macula. The procedure causes abnormal blood vessels to shrink and scar and is done on two or three sittings to ensure positive results.


Anti-VEGF medication or steroids is essential to prevent swelling in the macula area and delay or slow the vision loss process. These medications are prescribed by qualified physicians and administered over a given period through injections in the eyes. The medicine is responsible for reducing the swelling in the macula preventing vessels from bursting and hindering vision.

Medical control

Medical control refers to lifestyle changes that work towards maintaining your blood vessels healthy. The process entails carefully monitoring and regulating blood and sugar levels to ensure no strain is placed on the blood vessels forcing them to burst.

Some ways to maintain your blood vessels’ health are by strictly following your diet and taking your diabetic medication. This medical process is likely to bring some vision back and minimize the vision loss process.

Eye surgery

The operation is known as vitreoretinal surgery to extract some vitreous humor and scar tissue that interfere with your eyesight. The process gets performed under local anesthesia by putting a small incision on the side of your eye and using lasers to remove these substances that may hinder your vision.

Symptoms of retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy develops over time. One can have the condition and not notice its effects. However, some of the symptoms to look out for to ensure you understand what you are dealing with include;

  • Frequent instances of blurry visions
  • Dark strings or spots floating in your vision also known as the presence of
  • Changing visions that range from clear to blurred
  • Seeing colors as faded
  • Low night vision or inability to see in dim light
  • Blank or dark areas in the visual field
  • Vision loss, especially the central vision used to read and drive

Causes of retinopathy

Over a long time, high sugar levels and blood vessels weaken the eye vessels, causing them to block and prevent blood flow. In an attempt to keep its supply, the retina develops other blood vessels that are weak and ill-developed to hold the blood transmission exercise leading to bleeding of fluids or blood, causing macular edema that results in blurred vision.

Detached or worn-out retina due to excessive buildup of blocked blood vessels in the area that causes pressure making it detach. The Clouding of eye vessels due to blood and fluid buildup that results in partial or total blindness depending on its severity.


Diabetic Retinopathy Testing

Some techniques used to test Diabetic retinopathy include;

Extensive Dilation Exam

An ophthalmologist uses drop medication to dilate your eyes to enable them to get a better view of your inner eye. Your doctor then examines your eye for abnormalities such as the swollen retina, swollen blood vessels, retinal detachment, and irregularities in the optic vein, among others. This action provides them an accurate overview of the extent of damage and helps them properly issue medication that is likely to reverse, resolve, or manage the situation.

Fluorescein Angiography

The process involves using dye injected into a vein in the arm that travels through your blood vessels to the eye. A unique camera takes pictures of the dye flow through your retina and knows which blood vessels are faulty or blocked. The process also helps identify abnormal growing blood vessels and showcase the extent of blood blockage experienced in the eye to help plan the proper treatment process.

Optical Coherence Tomography

OCT provides an opportunity for your doctor to properly examine your retina and determine your macula’s swelling level. A particular machine scans the retina and shows cross-sectional images that analyze the retina’s thickness. This process provides information that enables your ophthalmologist to understand if there is any leaking into the retina tissue.

It also allows you to monitor treatment progress by showcasing the size of swollen blood vessels and if any changes administered is efficient. This process provides detailed information that shows the damage extent helping the doctor plan a proper cause of action.

Retinopathy diabetes is highly dangerous and may cause abrupt life changes. To prevent the disease from rendering you blind. Ensure you follow your doctor’s advice and carry out annual check-ups by booking an eye exam with one of our top doctors.


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