Diabetic retinopathy develops in stages over time.

If you're diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy after diabetic eye screening, lifestyle changes and treatment can reduce the chances of the problem progressing.

The main stages of diabetic retinopathy are described below. You will not necessarily experience all of these.

Stage 1: background retinopathy

This means that tiny bulges (microaneurysms) have appeared in the blood vessels in the back of your eyes (retina), which may leak small amounts of blood. This is very common in people with diabetes.

At this stage:

Stage 2: pre-proliferative retinopathy

This means that more severe and widespread changes are seen in the retina, including bleeding into the retina.

At this stage:

Stage 3: proliferative retinopathy

This means that new blood vessels and scar tissue have formed on your retina, which can cause significant bleeding and lead to retinal detachment, where the retina pulls away from the back of the eye.

At this stage:

Diabetic maculopathy

In some cases, the blood vessels in the part of the eye called the macula (the central area of the retina) can also become leaky or blocked. This is known as diabetic maculopathy.

If this is detected:

Read more about treating diabetic retinopathy.

Which stage am I at?

If you've had a diabetic eye screening test, you'll be sent a letter stating that you have one of the following:

Page last reviewed: 1 August 2019
Next review due: 1 August 2019