Diabetic retinopathy is a possible complication affecting the eyes that can possibly develop in anyone afflicted with type 1 or 2 diabetes. While it can potentially only cause minor symptoms or none, it has the potential to cause blindness. Typically, the longer someone has diabetes and the less adequately controlled their blood sugar levels are, the more likely you are to contract diabetic retinopathy. Below is a summary of the three main treatments that can be prescribed to someone seriously afflicted with diabetic retinopathy.
Monthly injections are a possible treatment for diabetic retinopathy and typically consist of anti-VEGF medicines such as ranibizumab and aflibercept. Anti-VEGF medications are medication that blocks vascular endothelial growth factors. Another alternative to anti-VEGF is also steroids that are traditionally used for other diabetes complications. A normal treatment usually consists of visiting your doctor or GP once a month until vision is improved.
Injections are administered directly into the eye. Before injection, eyes are generally cleaned and the area surrounding the eyes. A form of local anaesthetic will be administered so to reduce the pain of injection, and the needle itself is very fine.
Side-effects are relatively minor, with potential problems being mild eye-irritation and watery or dry eyes. A very small minority have the potential to develop more advanced complications, such as bleeding in the eye and blood-clots.
Laser treatment is generally administered to a patient when they are in more serious later stages of diabetic retinopathy. Laser treatment in the case of diabetic retinopathy is used as a preventative treatment and generally does not improve existing vision. Laser treatment works by treating new blood vessels in the back of the person's eyes, which are typically weak in someone suffering from diabetic retinopathy and have the potential to bleed out.
Laser treatments typically last from 30-50 minutes. During treatment, patients will be given a local anaesthetic before treatment, and eye drops and special contact lenses will be used to help keep patients eye-lids open. Treatment may require more than one visit but is not a continuous process. The treatment has the potential to cause mild pain and irritation in the eyes.
Side-effects from laser treatment typically last only a few hours. After treatment, patients may experience blurred vision and difficulty seeing, increased sensitivity to light and headaches centred near the treated area. It should be noted that after treatment, patients will be unable to drive, so it is recommended to arrange a friend or family member to pick up patients from the general practice.