Early or mild diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema may not necessarily require treatment. Ensuring that the blood sugar levels are well-controlled can lower the risk of progression to more severe diabetic eye disease. Our doctors will communicate and work with your general practitioner and/or endocrinologist to try and optimise control of your diabetes and other aspects of your general health.
If treatment is required, options include laser, injections of medication into the eye, and surgery. Your doctor will discuss with you which of these treatments are most appropriate for you.
Development of proliferative diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular oedema often requires treatment to prevent significant vision loss. Treatment options include laser, medication injected into the eye and surgery.
Laser is a non-invasive and painless outpatient treatment that is performed in the clinic. It is used to stop both existing and new abnormal blood vessels from leaking. Sometimes, several sessions of laser are required to complete treatment.
Eye injections are performed with copious anaesthetic eye drops and are a painless procedure that can be performed in the clinic or in a Day Surgery. The medication that is injected into the eye can counteract the growth of abnormal new vessels and/or stop leakage from existing blood vessels into the macula.
Surgery is usually reserved for very severe diabetic eye disease, such as when there has been significant haemorrhage into the eye from abnormal blood vessels.
Without treatment, proliferative diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema can lead to significant vision loss.
Early detection and treatment of diabetic eye disease is often associated with a better outlook for vision over the long term. This is why it is important to ensure that all diabetic patients are monitored for the development of diabetic eye disease.
The risk from diabetic retinopathy treatment is very low. Laser is a non-invasive procedure and very safe. Depending on the type of laser required, there is generally no pain to mild discomfort only. There are no significant post-treatment restrictions following laser treatment.
Injections of medication into the eye and surgery are also very safe procedures but are associated with low risks of infection. You may have to defer activities such as swimming for a period of time after these treatments. Injections and surgery are performed with copious anaesthesia to ensure there is no significant pain.
The risk from treatment is very low. Laser is a non-invasive procedure and very safe. Depending on the type of laser required, there is generally no pain to mild discomfort only. There are no significant post-treatment restrictions following laser treatment.
Injections of medication into the eye and surgery are also very safe procedures and are associated with low risks of infection. You may have to defer activities such as swimming for a period of time after these treatments. Injections and surgery are performed with copious anaesthesia to ensure there is no significant pain.
If diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema have progressed to the stage that vision is affected or under threat, treatment will be required. Without treatment, there is a high risk of progressive vision loss.
Step 1: The eye is numbed with local anaesthetic eye drops and the pupil is dilated with dilating drops.
Step 2: A contact lens is placed on the eye to hold the eyelids in place, and to help your doctor direct the laser to the required areas
Step 3: During treatment, you may notice bright flashes of light. There is minimal discomfort and treatment can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes (depending on the type of laser). After laser treatment, you can go home immediately and there are no special lifestyle restrictions.
Eye (Intravitreous) Injections
Step 1: A local anaesthetic eye drop is used to numb the eye, and the eye is cleaned with antiseptic substances
Step 2: A tiny needle (0.31mm in size) is attached to a syringe of medication for the injection. There is minimal discomfort with an injection, however the eye may feel mildly dry and gritty after treatment. You will be asked to not swim for 3 days after an injection, and it is important to report any significant blurring of vision after treatment to your doctor as this
Surgical Treatment (Vitrectomy)
Step 1: Local anaesthetic and copious twilight sedation are administered to ensure that you are asleep during the surgery and will not feel anything.
Step 2: Three small incisions are made around the front of the eye, each approximately half a millimetre wide. Very fine surgical instruments are inserted via these incisions to help remove any haemorrhage and/or scar tissue from abnormal blood vessels that are associated with proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Surgery is performed in a Day Surgery and can take 30-60 minutes. Most people spend about 2-3 hours altogether in the Day Surgery. You can go home after surgery but a carer will be required to check you out due to the use of twilight sedation. The eye is covered with an eye pad for the rest of the day and overnight. Not uncommonly, the eye can be temporarily red and gritty. You will have a range of postoperative ddrops to use, and often you cannot swim, garden or do any heavy lifting for approximately 2 weeks.
Ensuring that your blood sugar levels are well-controlled can lower the risk of progression to more severe diabetic eye disease. If treatment is required, early detection often means that there is a very good prospect of keeping good vision.
If the diabetic eye disease is more advanced, there may be some permanent limitation in vision. Your doctor will discuss with you the long-term outlook for your vision when making recommendations for treatment.