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of San Francisco 

Understanding Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: A San Francisco Perspective

| Premier Eyecare San Francisco

Welcome to Premier Eyecare, your trusted source for comprehensive eye care in San Francisco, CA. At our practice, we are committed to educating our community about eye health, and today, we're shedding light on a critical issue - proliferative diabetic retinopathy. This blog aims to raise awareness about this condition while offering valuable insights into its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What Is Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy?

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is a serious eye condition that can affect individuals with diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Over time, these damaged vessels can trigger abnormal growth of new blood vessels, which is where the term "proliferative" comes from.

Understanding the Stages:

PDR typically progresses through various stages:

  • Mild Nonproliferative Retinopathy: At this early stage, small areas of swelling or microaneurysms may develop in the retinal blood vessels.

  • Moderate to Severe Nonproliferative Retinopathy: As the disease progresses, more significant blockages in blood vessels can occur, leading to reduced blood supply to the retina. Tiny spots of blood or serum may be visible when your doctor looks at your retina.

  • Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy: This is the advanced stage where new, fragile blood vessels grow on the retina's surface. These “neovascular” blood vessels are prone to leaking blood and other fluids, which can lead to vision-threatening complications such as hemorrhage, glaucoma, or retinal detachment.


PDR may not exhibit noticeable symptoms in its early stages, and vision may seem normal, which is why regular eye exams are crucial for individuals with diabetes. As the condition progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Floaters or spots in your field of vision
  • Dark or empty areas in your vision
  • Sudden vision loss


Early detection of PDR is essential. At Premier Eyecare, our experienced ophthalmologists and optometrists utilize advanced diagnostic tools, such as OCT scanning and ultra-widefield retinal imaging, to identify diabetic retinopathy and monitor its progression.

Treatment Options:

The management of PDR depends on its severity:

  • Lifestyle Modifications: Controlling blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol through a healthy diet and regular exercise can slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

  • Medications: In some cases, medications like anti-VEGF injections or corticosteroids may be recommended to reduce swelling and inhibit abnormal blood vessel growth.

  • Laser Therapy: Laser treatments such as panretinal photocoagulation (PRP) can help shrink abnormal blood vessels and prevent further vision loss. These are done in the office setting.

  • Vitrectomy: For advanced cases with significant bleeding or retinal detachment, a surgical procedure known as vitrectomy may be necessary to remove blood and scar tissue from the eye.

Diabetes is the leading cause of legal blindness in working-age Americans. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to vision loss if left untreated. Regular eye exams at Premier Eyecare can help catch this condition in its early stages when it's most manageable. If you or a loved one have diabetes, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with our skilled ophthalmologists and optometrists in San Francisco, CA.