The 4 Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy
People with diabetes have to continually stay on top of their blood sugar levels to prevent serious complications from developing. Diabetics who consistently have high blood sugar levels are at an increased risk of nerve damage, heart disease, kidney disease, skin infections, and other potentially life-threatening conditions. Uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to a severe form of eye damage called diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye called the retina. At first, you may not notice any symptoms but as the condition progresses the vision loss will become more severe. The condition is divided into four different stages with each one more serious than the last.
The Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy
Mild Nonproliferative: This first stage is milder and causes balloon-like swelling in the blood vessels in the retina.
Moderate Nonproliferative: The second stage of diabetic retinopathy causes some of the blood vessels in the retina to become blocked.
Severe Nonproliferative: By the third stage, symptoms will begin to get worse, causing more blocked blood vessels. This prevents the retina from receiving adequate blood flow and forming new blood vessels to replace the damaged ones.
Proliferative: The fourth and final stage is the most advanced and severe. New blood vessels will begin to grow in the retina, but they will be delicate and irregular. This will lead to blood leaking, vision loss, and potentially blindness.
Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment and Prognosis
The good news is that if it is caused early enough, diabetic retinopathy is treatable and its progression can be stopped. In the first and second stages, you may not even need treatment and your doctor or optometrist may just monitor the condition while you take control of your diabetes. Usually, controlled blood sugar can stop the condition from getting worse.
If diabetic retinopathy is more advanced, you’ll need to get treatment as soon as possible. Treatment options include medications being injected into the eye, laser therapy, and a procedure known as vitrectomy where an incision is made into the eye to remove blood and scar tissue.
The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy or any other complications of diabetes is to successfully manage your diabetes. Most of the diseases associated with diabetes are caused by not controlling your blood sugar levels on a regular basis.
To keep your diabetes under control, you should eat a balanced diet and exercise as often as possible. Even taking frequent short walks can make a huge difference. You should also check your blood sugar levels on a regular basis so you can treat any fluctuations right away. Careful monitoring of your blood sugar is the easiest and safest way to ensure your levels are within your target range.
Many diabetics also have to take medications to keep their blood sugar at safe levels. Depending on the type of diabetes you have and how severe it is, you may need to use synthetic insulin or other oral or injectable medications.
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