What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?

Updated: Sep 27, 2021
  • Author: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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The following are the 5 stages in the progression of diabetic retinopathy:

  • Dilation of the retinal venules and formation of retinal capillary microaneurysms

  • Increased vascular permeability

  • Vascular occlusion and retinal ischemia

  • Proliferation of new blood vessels on the surface of the retina

  • Hemorrhage and contraction of the fibrovascular proliferation and the vitreous

The first 2 stages of diabetic retinopathy are known as background or nonproliferative retinopathy. Initially, the retinal venules dilate, then microaneurysms (tiny red dots on the retina that cause no visual impairment) appear. As the microaneurysms or retinal capillaries become more permeable, hard exudates appear, reflecting the leakage of plasma.

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