Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially serious eye condition that affects individuals with diabetes. Among its various forms, proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is the most advanced stage and requires immediate attention. In this blog, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for PDR to increase awareness and understanding of this sight-threatening condition.


What is Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)?

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is a complication of long-term, poorly controlled diabetes. It is characterized by the abnormal growth of new blood vessels on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. These new blood vessels are fragile and prone to leaking blood and other fluids, leading to visual complications and potentially causing serious vision loss.


Causes and Risk Factors

The primary cause of proliferative diabetic retinopathy is prolonged, uncontrolled diabetes. Chronically high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in the retina, triggering a cascade of events that lead to the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Additional risk factors for PDR include: 

Duration of Diabetes: The longer an individual has diabetes, the higher the risk of developing PDR.

Poor Blood Sugar Control: Inadequately managed blood sugar levels significantly increase the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy, including PDR.

Hypertension: High blood pressure can exacerbate the progression of PDR and increase the risk of severe vision loss.

Poor Blood Cholesterol Control: High levels of cholesterol can contribute to the development and progression of PDR.


Symptoms of PDR

In its early stages, proliferative diabetic retinopathy may not cause noticeable symptoms. However, as the condition progresses, individuals may experience the following symptoms: 

Floaters: The appearance of spots or dark strings in the field of vision caused by blood leakage into the vitreous, the gel-like substance in the center of the eye.

Blurred Vision: Blood leakage and swelling of the retina can lead to blurry or distorted vision.

Loss of Vision: In advanced stages, PDR can cause severe vision loss or even blindness if left untreated.

Fluctuating Vision: Vision may change throughout the day due to fluctuating blood sugar levels.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention from an eye care specialist or ophthalmologist.


Treatment Options for PDR

Prompt diagnosis and treatment are vital in managing proliferative diabetic retinopathy to prevent further vision loss. The following are common treatment options:

Laser Photocoagulation (Panretinal Photocoagulation): This procedure uses a laser to create small burns on the peripheral areas of the retina. The purpose is to shrink abnormal blood vessels and prevent their growth, reducing the risk of bleeding and vision loss.

Intravitreal Injections: Medications called anti-vascular endothelial growth factors (anti-VEGF) can be injected directly into the eye. These drugs help inhibit the growth of abnormal blood vessels and reduce the risk of bleeding and visual complications.

Vitrectomy: In cases where there is significant bleeding or severe traction on the retina, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be performed. During this surgery, the vitreous gel is removed, and any scar tissue is carefully peeled away to restore retinal health.

In addition to these treatments, it is crucial for individuals with PDR to manage their diabetes effectively. This includes maintaining stable blood sugar levels, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and following a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet.


Dr. Jorge Malouf and the staff of the Malouf Eye specialize in a variety of ophthalmologic conditions and treatments including cataract surgery, glaucoma surgery, strabismus surgery, neuro-ophthalmology exams, oculoplastics, diabetes and more.  Call our ophthalmologist in Tampa, FL today at 813-798-2020 if you are interested in learning more about the treatment options for proliferative diabetic retinopathy.  Our eye doctor provides only the highest quality eye care and surgical services amongst eye doctors in the Tampa, Florida area.