Treating Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes is a common disease where the level of sugar in the blood is higher than normal. In the UK it is estimated that over 2.3 million people have diabetes, but with many more undiagnosed. Unfortunately, with all types of diabetes there is a risk of developing sight problems, known as diabetic retinopathy. For this reason if you have the disease it is vital to visit your optician at least once a year.
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This is especially important as diabetic retinopathy presents no symptoms at first development. However, an optician is able to discover small changes in the eye and if diagnosed at this stage diabetic retinopathy is a treatable condition.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?

Good control of blood sugar levels with medication and dietary restriction is the most important step in delaying the onset of diabetic retinopathy and slowing down its progression. Your doctor will recommend to you how often to visit an optician or ophthalmologist to monitor your condition.

Laser treatment

If retinopathy is severe enough to threaten sight, your laser therapy will be needed. In this procedure, known as photocoagulation, a laser beam is applied in small bursts onto the damaged retina. This treatment will maintain vision rather than improving it.

Very often, more than one session will be required to complete laser treatment. It is generally done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia so you can go home after your procedure. Laser treatment is highly effective in most patients, preventing blindness in at least one eye of 80%-90% of cases.

It is important to know that the benefits of your laser treatment will not be immediate. In fact, it can sometimes worsen vision temporarily. Even where improvement is expected the effect may be seen only after weeks or months.

There are some side effects to laser therapy. However, when the disease is advanced, the benefits of in reducing the risk of permanent/severe visual loss far outweigh the side effects.


In some patients where there has been persistent bleeding and the vitreous is clouded with blood, or retinal detachment has occurred, a vitrectomy operation may be necessary.
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This is the removal of the vitreous (the jelly-like substance which fills the eye). It is then replaced with a clear substance, usually a form of saline, air, gas or silicone fluid. Very fine stitches that do not need removal are then used to close the wound.This surgery helps restore some vision by removing the cloudy vitreous and allowing light to reach the retina again. However, the improvement can be limited, and sight can take some weeks to improve.