How does diabetic retinopathy progress in stages 3, 4 and 5?

Updated: Nov 30, 2020
  • Author: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Answer

Preproliferative (stage 3) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (stages 4 and 5) are the next phases in the progression of the disease. Cotton-wool spots can be seen in preproliferative retinopathy. These represent retinal microinfarcts from capillary occlusion and appear as off-white to gray patches with poorly defined margins.

Proliferative retinopathy is characterized by neovascularization, or the development of networks of fragile new vessels that often are seen on the optic disc or along the main vascular arcades. The vessels undergo cycles of proliferation and regression. During proliferation, fibrous adhesions develop between the vessels and the vitreous. Subsequent contraction of the adhesions can result in traction on the retina and retinal detachment. Contraction also tears the new vessels, which hemorrhage into the vitreous.


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