When it comes to the leading cause of blindness in American adults, diabetic retinopathy is to blame. This diabetes-related eye disease causes semi or complete loss of vision by changing the blood vessels in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy has four different stages. There are different symptoms depending on which stage it is in.


The four stages of diabetic retinopathy include:


  • Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy

    • This beginning stage is often where swelling begins in the retina’s blood vessels. Because they are so tiny, leaking may begin to occur.
  • Moderate Nonproliferative Retinopathy

    • This stage is where the blood vessels which are essential for nourishing the retina become blocked. Swelling and leaking are still occurring in the blood vessels.

  • Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy

    • In this advanced stage, the blood vessels are blocked which means the retina is no longer getting the blood supply it needs to work correctly. This is the last stage before diabetic retinopathy becomes proliferative as a result of the body sending signals to grow more blood vessels.
  • Proliferative Retinopathy

    • This is the final advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. Signals have been sent to grow new blood vessels which are grown in an abnormal state. Because of where they are grown along the retina and their fragile state, leaking of blood causes severe vision loss or sometimes even blindness.

If diabetic retinopathy is discovered early, there is a treatment for it. This is why annual eye exams, especially for those with diabetes, is crucial to maintaining eye health. There are also treatments available for those who have lost partial vision from advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy.

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