Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes, characterized by progressive damage to the retina. The condition usually affects both eyes and the severity can vary, but if left untreated, it can cause blindness. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. PDR is characterized by the growth of new abnormal blood vessels in the eye (neovascularization) on or close to the optic nerve (nerve transferring visual information to the brain). These vessels can break and leak blood into the vitreous humor (large space in the eye filled with clear gel) or in front of the retina (light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye).
PDR occurs due to problems in circulation when the retina gets deprived of oxygen. In order to compensate for this, new blood vessels may form. A vascular growth factor may also cause the development of neovascularization. Proliferative retinopathy may not show any symptoms initially. Some patients may be able to view spots or a few specks of blood in their line of vision. Vision may clear without any treatment, but the spots may recur and bleeding may become serious, causing severe blurred vision. PDR may lead to vision loss and more permanent complications, such as neovascular glaucoma (damage to optic nerve) and retinal detachment due to formation of scar tissue.
Complete eye examinations, timely treatment and regular follow-up are very important in keeping PDR under control and preventing further worsening of vision.
The treatment options for proliferative diabetic retinopathy include laser surgery called Pan retinal photocoagulation and medication injections.