The Three Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that causes damage to the retina due to consistently high amounts of blood sugar inside of the body.

Retinopathy can cause blurry vision, spots, and even blindness if not treated.

It is preventable, and to an extent reversible, if you manage your diabetes well. Exercising regularly and eating healthier foods will help you maintain your blood sugar levels.

If you can keep your blood glucose inside of your target range, you are less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy.

There are three main stages of retinopathy that happen. It is important to know what stage you are in, so you can take the right measures to prevent any further progression of the disease.

According to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom, you are not guaranteed to go through all of the stages (NHS, 2016).

The first stage is background retinopathy. This occurs when microaneurysms develop in the blood vessels of your eye near your retina. These can cause leaking that will start to cause damage.

Your vision is normally not affected during this stage. In fact, this stage is very common with people who have diabetes.

Treatments are not required during stage one. However, you need to start taking preventative measures to stop the disease from progressing. You are a lot more susceptible to vision loss during this stage.
Therefore, it is important that you are talking to your eye doctor about diabetic retinopathy. The sooner you can catch it, the better.

The NHS states, “the chances of it progressing to the stages below within three years is over 25% if both of your eyes are affected” (NHS, 2016). Having a yearly check up with your eye doctor will help you to stay on top of diabetic retinopathy.

The second stage is pre-proliferative retinopathy. This is the stage when more severe damage starts to occur. There is normally bleeding into the retina.

Once you have reached this stage, there is a high probability that your vision is going to be affected negatively due to this condition.

If you get to stage two, your doctor will recommend you to come in for screenings 3-4 times a year. This will help you stay on top of the disorder and prevent it from progressing any further.

The final stage is proliferative retinopathy. When this stage occurs, scar tissues and blood vessels have developed on top of your retina (NHS, 2016).

This can cause serious bleeding that might lead to your retina becoming detached. This is when the retina pulls away from your eye. It will cause serious damage.

At this stage, you are at a significantly high risk of losing your vision. You will have lost some vision at this point, and it is impossible to regain that vision.

You will start being treated right away to try to stop the progression of the disease if possible.

This disease is preventable if you maintain your blood sugar inside of your target range. Talk with your eye doctor to make sure that you have not started to develop diabetic retinopathy. The sooner you talk, the better it is for your long-term vision health.


National Health Services. (2016). Diabetic retinopathy – stages. Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved from