Arlington Eye Physicians

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy

Patients with diabetes mellitus may develop damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the back layer of the eye that senses and processes light. This damage is referred to as diabetic retinopathy, and may appear as areas of dilated vessels, bleeding into the retina and swelling of the retina..

Diabetic Retinopathy typically progresses along a range of severity. Initially, patients may have non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), or background retinopathy, which may not affect vision significantly. However, if the disease becomes advanced, then proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) may develop. This stage may lead to severe bleeding within the eye , detachment of the retina or increases in eye pressure. Patients may experience sudden loss of vision and floaters if the bleeding is particularly severe.

At any stage of diabetic retinopathy, patients may develop macular edema (swelling of the retina). This occurs when damaged blood vessels leak fluid and protein into the retina in areas that are normally supposed to be dry. If this happens, vision can become decreased and permanently damaged over time. Macular edema is the leading cause of vision loss in diabetics.

Fortunately, we are able to treat these serious problems in diabetic retinopathy. Proliferative changes and macular edema may be treated with a variety of approaches, most typically including injections and laser treatments to the retina. In severe cases of diabetic retinopathy, retinal surgery may be needed to help restore the vision and health of the retina. This type of surgery is called a vitrectomy and is almost always performed as an outpatient procedure and typically has a short recovery course.

It is crucial to remember that most vision loss from diabetes is preventable with early screening and intervention. With timely diagnosis treatment, the vast majority of diabetics will retain good vision.



Diabetic Retinopathy can often develop without symptoms initially. Should macular edema develop, vision may become blurred or darkened. Bleeding inside of the eyes may cause floaters or strands in the vision. If the bleeding is severe enough, vision may become completely



Diabetic retinopathy may be treated with laser therapy, intraocular injection of medications, or often a combination of the two. Should the retinopathy become advanced to the point of severe bleeding or retinal detachment, then retinal surgery (vitrectomy) may be necessary. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy has advanced remarkably over the past 15 years and we are now able to preserve vision in the vast majority of patients.