If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy (DR) or diabetic macular edema (DME), fortunately you’re not alone—and a retina specialist can help!
If the retina specialist finds signs of DR or DME, they will discuss a follow-up plan and, depending on the stage of the condition, may recommend a treatment option to help your eyes and protect against vision loss. As the disease progresses, other treatment options may also be recommended.
When non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is in its early stages, careful monitoring and diabetes management might be recommended.
Diabetic retinopathy is associated with abnormally high levels of a naturally occurring protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which may cause the eye to form leaky blood vessels that may lead to vision loss. Anti-VEGF medicines are injected into the eye to bind to the VEGF protein and help keep these blood vessels from leaking fluid.
Laser treatment, or photocoagulation, works by aiming a beam of high-energy light to parts of the retina to create tiny burns that seal off or eliminate abnormal and leaky vessels to help stop the leaking of fluid and blood in the eyes.
A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure in which the vitreous—the gel-like substance that fills the eye to help it keep its shape—is removed and replaced with salt water, a gas bubble, or silicone oil. Retina specialists may recommend this treatment when the hemorrhages caused by DR have damaged the vitreous and block vision.
Corticosteroids, or steroids, are medications that can help reduce inflammation. Because diabetic macular edema—a complication of diabetic retinopathy—occurs when the macula swells with fluid from damaged blood vessels, this treatment may be recommended.
In some cases, retina specialists will use more than one treatment option. For example, they might combine laser therapy with anti-VEGF medications or corticosteroids.
Any treatment option has potential benefits and risks. Be sure to discuss both with a retina specialist.
Now that you know the basics, you can be better prepared to have a useful conversation with a retina specialist. Click to find out what resources this website has to help you learn more.