Diabetic Retinopathy

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when excess glucose builds up in the retina’s blood vessels, causing them to leak fluid, or bleed.  When the vessels cannot deliver an adequate amount of blood supply to the eye, the eye can generate abnormal new blood vessels. Early diabetic retinopathy usually has no symptoms. However, worsening diabetic retinopathy can lead to visual loss and blindness; therefore, early detection is essential.

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in American adults. In most diabetic retinopathy cases, blindness is preventable. Thomas Eye Group’s diabetic retina eye doctors work closely with each patient to monitor and treat this disease. We encourage patients to be diligent with their medications and daily glucose monitoring.

What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?

Non-proliferative retinopathy (NDPR)

The first and earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy, non-proliferative retinopathy (NPDR), occurs when the small blood vessels of the retina start to leak fluid or bleed, causing the central part of the retina to swell. This swelling is known as macular edema. Macular edema can cause the blood vessels to become blocked. Most diabetic patients have some grade of NPDR. Regular eye examinations with your Thomas Eye Group retina specialist are essential to monitor and treat NPDR.

Proliferative retinopathy

The second and more severe stage of diabetic retinopathy, proliferative diabetic retinopathy, occurs when new vessels start to grow because of blockages in the existing vessels. These new abnormal blood vessels can grow on the retina, optic nerve, iris, or into the vitreous gel inside the eye, and tend to grow poorly and are very fragile. These blood vessels can severely damage the retina, including retinal hemorrhages, scar tissue build-up, and possible retinal detachment. It is possible for proliferative diabetic retinopathy to occur without any visual symptoms.

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

How does Thomas Eye Group detect diabetic retinopathy?

During your dilated eye exam, your doctor will look for the fluid leakage that can lead to more advanced levels of this eye disease. Your doctor may also use retinal photographic equipment.

How is diabetic retinopathy treated?

Laser treatments (photocoagulation)

Controlled bursts seal leaking blood vessels, destroy abnormal blood vessels, and seal retinal tears

Intraocular corticosteroid injections

May reduce retinal swelling and improve visual acuity in patients with diabetic macular edema

Intravitreal Avastin™ injections

Block the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye to slow vision loss from conditions like proliferative and non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, macular edema, and retinal vein occlusions


Surgical procedure to clear blood and debris from the eye, remove scar tissue, and/or to alleviate traction on the retina; The procedure removes the vitreous gel from the eye through a small incision. Gas, air, or silicone oil may be placed in the eye to replace the vitreous fluid, smooth out the retina, and prevent retinal detachment

Diabetic retinopathy can be stressful, let us help.
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Thomas Eye Group