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You may need treatment for diabetic retinopathy if:
It has affected the center (macula) of the retina.
Abnormal new blood vessels have started to appear. (This is called proliferative retinopathy.)
Your side (peripheral) vision has been severely damaged.
There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy. But treatment works very well to prevent, delay, or reduce vision loss. The sooner the condition is found, the easier it is to treat. And it's more likely that vision will be saved.
Controlling your blood sugar levels is always important. This is true even if you've been treated for diabetic retinopathy and your eyes are better. In fact, good blood sugar control is even more important in this case. It can help keep retinopathy from getting worse.
Treatment options include:
Laser treatment (photocoagulation).
Laser treatment usually works very well to prevent vision loss if it's done before the retina has been severely damaged. It may also help with macular edema.
Severe proliferative retinopathy may be treated with a more aggressive laser therapy called scatter (pan-retinal) photocoagulation. It allows your doctor to limit the growth of new blood vessels across the back of your retina. Laser treatments may not always work in treating proliferative retinopathy.
Surgical removal of the vitreous gel (vitrectomy).
This surgery may help improve vision if the retina hasn't been severely damaged. It's done when there is bleeding (vitreous hemorrhage) or retinal detachment. These two problems are rare in people with early-stage retinopathy.
This surgery is also done when severe scar tissue has formed. It can be used to treat macular edema.
Anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) or an anti-inflammatory medicine.
Anti-VEGF medicines slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina. This growth is triggered by a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Anti-VEGF medicines block the effects of VEGF.
Sometimes injections of these types of medicine help to shrink new blood vessels in proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
An anti-VEGF medicine, such as aflibercept (Eyelea) or ranibizumab (Lucentis), might be used if the macula has been damaged by macular edema.
Steroids may be injected into the eye. Sometimes an implant, such as Iluvien, may be placed in the eye. The implant releases a small amount of corticosteroid over time.
Many people with diabetic retinopathy need to be treated more than once as the condition gets worse.