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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetic Retinopathy - Other Treatment

Laser treatment (photocoagulation) can be an effective treatment for diabetic retinopathy. But it does not cure the disease. It can prevent, delay, and sometimes reverse vision loss. Without either laser treatment or surgery, vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy and its complications may get worse until blindness occurs. So early treatment is vital to slowing vision loss, which can happen quickly.

When diabetic retinopathy causes bleeding (hemorrhage) into the vitreous gel, extensive scar tissue formation, or retinal detachment, surgical removal of the vitreous gel (vitrectomy) may be needed before laser treatment is considered.

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Unfortunately, by the time some people are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, it is often too late for treatment to provide much benefit. Even with treatment, vision will continue to decline.

Early detection of retinopathy through dilated eye exams can provide the opportunity to have laser treatment when it is most effective.

Other treatment choices

Laser photocoagulation uses the heat from a laser to seal or destroy abnormal, leaking blood vessels in the retina. It can cause the abnormal, weak blood vessels to shrink.

Some anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) medicines, such as ranibizumab (Lucentis), can help treat macular edema from diabetic retinopathy.

What to think about

Pan-retinal laser treatment is used to treat several spots on the retina during one or, most often, two sessions. It reduces the risk of serious bleeding and the progression of severe proliferative retinopathy.

Laser photocoagulation can result in some loss of vision, because it destroys some of the nerve cells in the retina and can cause the abnormal blood vessels to go away. With pan-retinal photocoagulation, this most often affects the outside (peripheral) vision, because the laser is directed at that area. Your vision may be worse right after treatment. But vision loss caused by laser treatment is mild compared with the vision loss that may be caused by untreated retinopathy.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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