Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

This condition arises from complications brought about by diabetes. With time, high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the body. This damage can extend to the vessels in the retina. 


In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, blood sugar blocks the vessels in the retina. This causes them to bleed and leak. In the advanced stages of the condition, the eye starts to grow new, abnormal blood vessels. These blood vessels are weaker than those before. They also leak more easily. 


The accumulated fluid causes the shape of the eye and curvature of the lens to change. This affects vision. As blood sugar lowers, the lens goes back to normal and vision improves.




The early stages of this condition may not have symptoms. But as the condition progresses, you may develop:


  • Blurry vision

  • Sudden vision loss

  • Spots and floaters

  • Eye pain or redness

  • Decreased field of vision

  • Impaired color vision




Diabetic retinopathy manifests as proliferative and non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.


Here are some signs that characterize the four stages:


Mild Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (Stage 1)


This is the earliest stage, also known as background retinopathy. High blood sugar causes swelling of tiny areas in the blood vessels of the retina. These tiny, swollen areas or microaneurysms block the vessels.


Swelling of the macula is also triggered as fluid leaks inside the retina. The macula is the part of the retina at the back of the eye responsible for central vision, the fine detail of what we see, and most of our color vision. This causes impaired color vision.


Moderate Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (Stage 2)


This stage is normally characterized by the accumulation of fluid and blood in the macula. Increased swelling of the blood vessels starts to interfere with blood flow to the retina. This prevents its proper nourishment.


Severe Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (Stage 3)


At this stage, there is a significant reduction of blood flow to the retina. This happens as a larger part of blood vessels become blocked. The body then starts to grow new blood vessels to nourish the retina.


Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (Stage 4)


In this advanced stage, new blood vessels and scar tissue form in the retina. The blood vessels formed are weaker than those present before. They also leak easier. This results in blurry vision, reduction of the field of vision, and blindness. It can also cause detachment of the retina.


Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition. It can lead to poor vision and blindness. If you have diabetes, make sure you get regular eye examinations in addition to your physical checkups. Keep your cholesterol, blood pressure, and especially your blood sugar at healthy levels. Lastly, be mindful of any changes in your vision and discuss them with your doctor.


If you want to learn more about diabetic retinopathy, contact TMS Eyecare at our offices in Wichita or Arkansas City, Kansas. You can also call us (316) 669-4760, (316) 686-7212, or (620) 442-2577 to book an appointment today.