Treatment for Vision Problems Caused by Diabetes

If you have diabetes, it is important to see your ophthalmologist regularly to help prevent vision problems and vision loss. If your ophthalmologist is not a retinal specialist and detects retinopathy, she will refer you to a retinal specialist for regular exams. "We're much better now than we've ever been at restoring vision—not just protecting it," notes Dr. Schwartz. If proliferative retinopathy is detected, a laser treatment, known as laser photocoagulation, can preserve visual acuity. It's an outpatient procedure in which the ophthalmologist dilates your pupils, then aims tiny lasers at your retina, causing small scar tissue formations that prevent small blood vessels from rupturing.

New studies suggest a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) may promote the growth of vision-threatening blood vessels in the eye in response to damage caused by blood glucose. Therapies that inhibit that process show promise.

Diabetic Macular Edema Study

A landmark study conducted at more than 80 clinical centers across the U.S. offers hope to people with diabetic macular edema. DME occurs in people with diabetic retinopathy when leakage and accumulation of fluid causes a swelling around the center of the retina, known as the macula, triggering blurred vision. Researchers found they could significantly improve the vision of DME patients by injecting the eye with ranibizumab, which inhibits the leakage of fluid from blood vessels in the retina.

The combination of ranibizumab injections and prompt or deferred laser photocoagulation—an outpatient treatment in which a laser spot welds leakage points in the retina—proved more effective than laser treatment alone, preserving vision in more than 90 percent of patients. If you have DME, ask your ophthalmologist about this treatment combination.

Publication Review By: Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D.; Susan B. Bressler, M.D.; Steven Schwartz, M.D.

Published: 06 Feb 2011

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015