Diabetic retinopathy (DR) and age related macular degeneration (ARMD) are among the major causes of visual impairment all over the world. DR is mainly characterized by small red spots, namely microaneurysms and bright lesions, specifically exudates. However, ARMD is mainly identified by tiny yellow or white deposits called drusen. Since exudates might be the only visible signs of the early diabetic retinopathy, there is an increase demand for automatic diagnosis of retinopathy. Exudates and drusen may share similar appearances; as a result discriminating between them plays a key role in improving screening performance. In this research, we investigative the role of bag of words approach in the automatic diagnosis of retinopathy diabetes. Initially, the color retinal images are preprocessed in order to reduce the intra and inter patient variability. Subsequently, SURF (Speeded up Robust Features), HOG (Histogram of Oriented Gradients), and LBP (Local Binary Patterns) descriptors are extracted. We proposed to use single-based and multiple-based methods to construct the visual dictionary by combining the histogram of word occurrences from each dictionary and building a single histogram. Finally, this histogram representation is fed into a support vector machine with linear kernel for classification. The introduced approach is evaluated for automatic diagnosis of normal and abnormal color retinal images with bright lesions such as drusen and exudates. This approach has been implemented on 430 color retinal images, including six publicly available datasets, in addition to one local dataset. The mean accuracies achieved are 97.2% and 99.77% for single-based and multiple-based dictionaries respectively.