How I Learned...Diabetic Retinopathy

“How I Learned” is a new series I want to put together that discusses my strategy and organization of ophthalmic diseases and principles.  These articles will be overviews of a particular topic, with links to more specific discussions.  Hopefully this will be helpful!

Diabetic retinopathy is a very common disease that is seen/screened within ophthalmology.  As such, having a well-organized understanding of identifying and classifying diabetic retinopathy as well as how to manage it is a crucial competency for the beginning ophthalmologist.


I’m sure there are many other ways to organize this information.  While this is but one way to organize the material, this outline served as my skeleton for learning the essentials of diabetic retinopathy.  While the organization is partially based on the format and organization of the Basic and Clinical Science Course section (2012-2013 edition),(1) I also used the Wills Eye Manual (5th edition),(2) Kanski’s Clinical Ophthalmology (7th edition),(3) and Spalton’s Atlas of Clinical Ophthalmology (3rd edition, revised).(4) As I put together the reviews for these different categories, I will update the links.

  1. General Information
    • Terminology
    • Epidemiology
    • Pathogenesis/pathophysiology
    • Systemic risk factors
  2. Nonproliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR)
    • Definitions
    • Characteristic findings
    • Classification of NPDR
    • Management
  3. Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)
    • Definitions
    • Clinical criteria for clinically significant macular edema (CSME)
    • Management
  4. Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)
    • Definitions
    • Clinical stages
    • Classification of PDR
    • Management
  5. Other Ophthalmic Considerations In Diabetes
    • Cataract surgery
    • Other diagnostic considerations and differential diagnosis
    • Interdisciplinary communication

Additional Reading


  1. Retinal Vascular Disease:  Diabetic Retinopathy.  In:  Retina and Vitreous.  Basic and Clinical Sciences Course, Section 12, 2012-2013 ed.  San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology; 2012:89-112.
  2. Diabetic Retinopathy.  In:  Ehlers JP et al., eds.  The Wills Eye Manual:  Office and Emergency Room Diagnosis and Treatment of Eye Disease, 5th ed.  Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer; 2008:290-296.
  3. Retinal Vascular Disease.  In:  Kanski JJ, Bowling B, eds.  Clinical Ophthalmology:  A Systemic Approach, 7th Ed.  Edinburgh: Elsevier; 2011:534-551.
  4. Khan J, Chong V, Spalton DJ.  The Retina:  Vascular Diseases II.  In:  Spalton DJ, Hitchings RA, Hunter PA, eds.  Atlas of Clinical Ophthalmology, 3rd ed., revised reprint.  Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2011:472-496.