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Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that arises from diabetic complications. Consistently high blood sugar damages vessels in the body. This damage extends to the vessels in the retina.


Diabetic retinopathy progresses through four stages, each with different symptoms. The condition begins with blurry vision and can result in loss of vision. To make sure you catch it early before it progresses, go to the eye doctor for regular checkups.




The main source of energy for the body is glucose. Cells absorb glucose with the help of insulin and use it for energy. In the case of diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin, or the utilization is not optimal. Thus, glucose accumulates in the body.


Continuous high levels of glucose raise blood sugar. The high levels of blood sugar end up weakening or damaging the blood vessels. The damage extends to the tiny vessels in the eye. It causes new, abnormal blood vessels to form in the retina.




The early stages of this condition may not have symptoms. But as the condition progresses, symptoms develop. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy depend on the stage. What are the symptoms in the different stages?


Stage 1: Mild Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy


This is the earliest stage. High blood sugar starts causing swelling of tiny areas in the blood vessels of the retina. These tiny, swollen areas cause clogging in the vessels. The blockage causes fluid to leak into the retina.


In this beginning stage, you may not feel the symptoms. But regular eye exams will detect the fluid leaking into the retina, helping diagnose diabetic retinopathy early.


Stage 2: Moderate Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy


In this stage, the fluid leaking into the retina causes swelling of the macula. It is the part of the retina at the back of the eye. It is responsible for central vision and helps with fine details and color vision. The accumulated fluid causes the shape of the eye and curvature of the lens to change, affecting vision.


Swelling of the blood vessels increases and starts to interfere with blood flow to the retina. The interference also prevents proper nourishment of the retina.


Stage 3: Severe Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy


There is a significant reduction of blood flow to the retina. To compensate, the body starts to grow new blood vessels to nourish the retina. But the new blood vessels are weaker than those present before. They also leak easier.


Stage 4: Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy


Blocked vessels cause scar tissue to form in the retina. The new blood vessels start leaking, resulting in blurry vision. There is also a detachment of the retina. With time, the field of vision continues receding, causing blindness.




Diagnosis requires a comprehensive eye exam. During the exam, the doctor can conduct additional tests to diagnose diabetic retinopathy. The main method the doctor uses is the dilated eye exam.


For this exam, the doctor places eye drops in your eyes. The eye drops dilate your pupils, allowing the doctor to view inside the eyes. As they view your eyes, they take photos and look for abnormalities. These include:


  • Cataracts

  • Abnormalities in the blood vessels

  • New blood vessels

  • Scar tissue

  • Retinal detachment


For more information on diabetic retinopathy and its diagnosis, contact Berris Optical at our office in Rocky River, Ohio. You can call us at (440) 571-7100 to schedule an appointment today.

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