How Does Diabetic Retinopathy Cause Blindness?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common type of diabetic eye disease, and a leading cause of vision loss in American adults. Diabetic retinopathy is primarily caused by changes in the retina’s blood vessels. At first, you may not notice any changes in your vision, but over time the disease can worsen and cause blindness. Diabetic retinopathy occurs in four stages:

  • First stage (mild nonproliferative retinopathy) – Microaneurysms occur: small areas of swelling in the retina’s blood vessels.
  • Second stage (moderate nonproliferative retinopathy) – Some of the blood vessels that nourish your retina become blocked.
  • Third stage (severe nonproliferative retinopathy) – More blood vessels become blocked, depriving many areas of your retina of their blood supply. This signals your body to grow new blood vessels.
  • Fourth stage (proliferative retinopathy) – New blood vessels grow on your retina, which are fragile and easily broken. If these vessels begin to leak blood, severe vision impairment and blindness can result.

During the first three stages of diabetic retinopathy, no treatment is necessary, but steps should be taken to prevent the disease from progressing into its most advanced state. For example, if you have diabetes, you should make sure your blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol are adequately controlled. If the disease is in its fourth stage, laser treatment can be performed to save your vision.

If you have further questions about diabetic retinopathy, please contact Summit Eye Care today or call (866) 765-8190 today to schedule your initial consultation. We serve patients in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Kernersville, and surrounding areas of North Carolina.

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