Retina Surgery & Treatment
Although damage caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be corrected, patients diagnosed with the condition can be treated to slow its progression and prevent further vision loss. Treatment modalities include laser and surgical procedures.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common type of diabetic eye disease and the leading cause of blindness in the US. This condition is caused by blood vessel changes within the retina that lead to swelling and leaking of fluid. It can also cause growth of abnormal new blood vessels on the surface of the retina. There are four stages of diabetic retinopathy that begin with the occurrence of microaneurysms and eventually lead to abnormal blood vessels on the surface of the retina that can easily leak fluid and cause severe vision loss and even blindness.
Treatment for early stages of diabetic retinopathy and other condition usually focuses on maintaining levels of blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol, in order to prevent any permanent damage from occurring. For more advanced stages of the condition, laser surgery is often effective in shrinking the abnormal blood vessels through over 1,000 laser burns in the area of the retina. This procedure, known as scatter laser treatment, usually requires two or more sessions in order to fully remove the blood vessels.
The fluid can also leak into the center of the macula and cause swelling and blurred vision, a condition known as macular edema. The risk of developing macular edema increases as diabetic retinopathy progresses.
Macular edema can also be treated through a laser procedure, called focal laser treatment, which places hundreds of laser burns in the area of retinal leakage to reduce the amount of fluid in the retina. This treatment only requires one treatment.
Laser treatments can be performed in your doctor's office and are performed with anesthetic eye drops to minimize pain during the procedure. Patients may experience blurry vision for the rest of the day, and should rest at home. It is important for patients to realize that these procedures cannot cure diabetic eye conditions, but rather help reduce vision loss for patients with advanced cases of the condition.