What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is retina damage caused by complications arising from insufficient diabetic control.
The retina is a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. A network of tiny blood vessels supplies blood to the retina which may become damaged when blood vessels leak, get blocked or grow haphazardly due to persistent high blood sugar.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults.
Symptoms & signs
Patients with early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually have no symptoms. The disease often progresses unnoticed until it affects vision.
Bleeding from abnormal retinal blood vessels can cause the appearance of ‘floating’ spots. These spots sometimes clear on their own. But without prompt treatment, bleeding often recurs, increasing the risk of permanent vision loss.
Background Diabetic Retinopathy
Background diabetic retinopathy is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy. The symptoms are mild and vision is usually excellent – the macula (centre of vision) is generally not affected. However, there may be small amounts of retinal bleeding as well as protein and fat deposits within the retina.
Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the next stage when capillaries become more dilated and there are more deposits in the retina. Blood flow may be compromised while there may also be fluid leakage which could lead to swelling of the macula, a condition known as diabetic macular edema.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the advanced stage when abnormal blood vessels in the retina develop and proliferate on the surface of the retina and the optic nerve. This leads to a lot of bleeding, growth of scar tissue, tugging on the retina, and in severe cases, retinal detachment resulting in blindness.