Types and Risks of Diabetic Retinopathy

At Retina Associates in Tucson, AZ, Cameron Javid, MD, and his colleagues treat a variety of primary and secondary eye conditions. Drs. Cameron Javid, April Harris, Egbert Saavedra and Mark Walsh, address macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy more than any other eye conditions. Retina Associates also has largest eye cancer program in the Southwest United States.

Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetes-related ophthalmologic condition, poses serious risk to a patient’s vision. The condition attacks the thin tissue at the back of the eye known as the retina, which receives rays of light from the environment and sends related signals to the brain for interpretation. It includes the macula, which controls the central part of one’s vision, as well as the peripheral retina, which regulates peripheral vision. In patients with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels in the retina swell, leak, or abnormally grow where they do not belong.

In its earliest stages, known as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), vessels leak small amounts fluid and blood into the eye. This may lead to blurred vision due to closing capillaries or macular edema, in which the macula, (central retina) swells and causes vision loss. However, many patients with NPDR experience no symptoms. By contrast, later-stage or proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) affects both the macula and the peripheral retina and can cause retinal or vitreous hemorrhage, traction retinal detachment, or neovascular glaucoma, all of which can severely distort or damage vision. If there is significant blood leakage and/or scar tissue then PDR can cause permanent blindness.