In most cases, laser surgery can prevent significant vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy.
A procedure called laser photocoagulation can be performed to seal or destroy growing or leaking blood vessels in the retina.
Panretinal photocoagulation (PRP)This is used to treat the peripheral retina to prevent or stop the growth of the abnormal new blood vessels.
Focal laserThis is used to treat the macular oedema to reduce the swelling.
In general, each eye requires two to three sessions for a PRP to be completed. You will be expected to go for regular treatments over a period of six to twelve months before diabetic retinopathy is controlled adequately.
In patients with loss of central vision due to diabetic macular oedema, intravitreal injections of medication into the centre of the eye can reduce the macular swelling and improve vision.
Medications injected into the eye for diabetic macular oedema include Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) drugs such as Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea, as well as steroids.
Often, multiple injections at intervals of one month or longer are required to resolve the swelling. Repeated injections at longer intervals may also be required to maintain the visual improvement.
In some people with diabetic retinopathy, the abnormal blood vessels in the retina may also result in massive bleeding into the centre of the eye (vitreous haemorrhage), causing sudden severe loss of vision.
A surgical procedure called vitrectomy can be used to remove blood that has leaked into this part of the eye. Vitrectomy may also be required if there is a tractional retinal detachment, but this marks the end stage of the disease that may be prevented with early laser treatment.
In these cases, the visual outcomes are guarded although some vision can still be regained or preserved by surgery.
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