Diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema are common eye problems associated with diabetes and can be treated either with lasers or injections. 

If you develop the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, the most helpful treatment is to get  your diabetes under tighter control, rather than to treat your eyes directly. It will also help if you control your blood pressure and your blood cholesterol, and your GP can help you do this through lifestyle changes, or through drug therapy as necessary.  It is important, however, to have your eyes regularly monitored for signs of changes. 

If abnormal blood vessels start to develop in the retina, or there is a risk of bleeding, you may then need laser treatment or injections. 

Laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy

The London Clinic eye centre provides laser treatment, which shrinks the new, fragile blood vessels that develop as a result of diabetic retinopathy. 

Focal laser therapy can be used to reduce diabetic macular oedema. This involves making fewer laser lesions, concentrated into the area of the retina just around the macula. 

Laser treatment is able to prevent loss of vision effectively, but it does not usually reverse it; intravitreal injections are usually required to achieve this. 

Intravitreal injections for diabetic eye disease

  • Lucentis®, an anti-VEGF agent is available at The London Clinic eye centre to treat people experiencing visual loss due to diabetic macular oedema (DME).
  • Avastin® is currently used off-label for patients with diabetic eye disease, and recent trial results published in the early summer of 2011 have provided good evidence that Avastin® is comparable with Lucentis®.

Vitrectomy surgery and diabetic eye disease

If you have proliferative diabetic retinopathy and there has been significant bleeding at the back of your eye, it may be necessary to remove the vitreous fluid from inside your eye, together with deposits of blood. Removing this fluid and blood will result in clearer vision, but this surgery will not make any difference to the status of your retina.

Trade names quoted are given as examples only of the drug types described, alternatives may be available.