background diabetic retinopathy

Last edited 05/2023

This is the earliest stage of diabetic retinopathy; very common in people with diabetes.

  • The Wisconsin Epidemiologic Study of Diabetic Retinopathy reported that background diabetic retinopathy (microaneurysms and haemorrhages) was present in nearly all subjects with type 1 diabetes of 20 years' duration, and in 80% of those with type 2 diabetes of a similar duration (1).
  • Pathology is intraretinal.
  • Lesions are often situated between the main temporal arterial arcades.

Background diabetic retinopathy is graded as level R1 in the UK National Screening Committee (NSC) grading criteria (2).


  1. Shotliff  K. and Duncan  G.  Diabetic retinopathy: summary of grading and management criteria. Pract Diab Int, 2006;23: 418–420
  2. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) 2012. Diabetic retinopathy guidelines