Diabetic Retinopathy

Frequently Asked Questions

2. What are the stages of diabetic retinopathy?

The four stages of diabetic retinopathy are

  • mild nonproliferative retinopathy
  • moderate nonproliferative retinopathy
  • severe nonproliferative retinopathy
  • proliferative retinopathy

(Watch the animation to see how diabetic retinopathy occurs. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

Nonproliferative retinopathy. At this earliest stage, microaneurysms occur. They are small areas of balloon-like swelling in the retina's tiny blood vessels.

Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy. As the disease progresses, some blood vessels that nourish the retina are blocked.

Severe nonproliferative retinopathy. Many more blood vessels are blocked, depriving several areas of the retina of their blood supply. These areas of the retina send signals to the body to grow new blood vessels for nourishment.

Proliferative retinopathy. At this advanced stage, the signals sent by the retina for nourishment trigger the growth of new blood vessels. These new blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. They grow along the retina and along the surface of the clear, vitreous gel that fills the inside of the eye.