Are there any treatments for eye conditions related to diabetes?

Diabetic retinopathy

Can be treated with laser treatment to prevent sight threatening complications. Laser can be used in two ways:

  • Laser treatment (photocoagulation) may be used when only a small part of your retina is affected by retinopathy
  • Macular laser or photocoagulation Localised macular laser treatment may be used when only a small part of your macula is affected by diabetic maculopathy
  • Pan-retinal photocoagulation may be used when a larger area of your retina may need to be treated

Laser treatment is performed at an outpatient clinic, so you won’t need to stay in hospital. Localised laser treatment does not usually cause too much discomfort because it doesn’t take long and only treats a small area of your retina. Pan-retinal laser  treatment can be uncomfortable, because a larger area of your retina is being treated. You may be given painkillers before the treatment. Don’t be afraid to tell your ophthalmologist if the treatment hurts or if you found a previous session of laser treatment painful.

It’s important to remember that while laser treatment cannot make your vision better, it does aim to prevent your vision from getting worse. However, if you do not have laser treatment, you may end up losing a lot more of your sight in the long run. Ask your ophthalmologist to talk you through your treatment plan; the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment as well as the possible side effects to your sight, and whether these are temporary or permanent.

Diabetic macular oedema

If fluid leaks out of the retinal blood vessels near the macula, it can cause swelling in the macular tissue. This swelling is known as diabetic macular oedema (DMO). The very centre of your macula is called the fovea, and if your DMO doesn’t affect this tiny area of the retina, laser treatment can be used to reduce the macular swelling that is present to try to prevent any further blurring of your central vision.

However, as the fovea is a very delicate part of the macula, it cannot be treated directly with the laser. If you have DMO that does affect the fovea, your eye may benefit from treatment with an injection instead. There are a range of different drugs which can be used to treat central DMO. Please see What is anti-VEGF treatment?

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