Diabetic retinopathy can be treated in a number of ways. The first and most important way is medical control of the diabetes through diet, exercise, and good levels of blood pressure and blood sugar.  There are other local treatments to the eye.  One class of medication that can be injected into the eye is called anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) which targets against the irregular blood vessels or the leaking vessels.  Steroid injections to the eye can also help with macular edema.  The injections do not cure the disease, and require repeat treatments as often as monthly for an indefinite period of time to produce the best results.  The eye is numbed prior to the injection and patients tolerate this procedure very well with minimal pain.  Patients can also have laser treatments to areas of tissue that are not getting good blood flow and releasing toxic factors to the rest of the eye.  Also, specific areas of swelling can sometimes benefit from laser treatment.  Sometimes multiple laser treatments are needed.


Diabetic retinopathy can affect vision in many ways. Diabetic macular edema is caused by leaking vessels that can cause bleeding and swelling of the macula which is responsible for central vision.  Diabetes can also cause blood vessels to close off, leading to decreased blood flow to the retina.  This is called macular ischemia.  Also, lack of blood flow in diabetes can cause growth of new irregular blood vessels into the eye.  These vessels can bleed and form scar tissue, and can lead to problems such as vitreous hemorrhage or retinal detachment.

Fluorescein Angiogram of Diabetic Retinopathy


Diabetes mellitus is a disease characterized by high levels of blood sugar resulting from the body either not making enough insulin or being resistant to insulin.  Diabetes can be managed with diet, exercise, and medications.  If the diabetes is not well controlled, it can greatly increase the chance of causing disease of many parts of the body, including the eyes.

Regular eye exams are important in patients who have diabetes because the eyes can show how well the diabetes is controlled.  Also, patients whose eyes are affected by diabetes sometimes do not have any symptoms, and it important to have at least one exam per year to monitor for diabetic retinopathy.  Patients who have signs of diabetic retinopathy can be monitored with diagnostic tests such as fundus photography, ocular coherence tomography (OCT), and fluorescein angiography (FA).

Color Photo of Diabetic Retinopathy