Diabetes Week 2017: Diabetic Retinopathy Part 2 – Treatment and Eye Care

Been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy? Discover more about the condition and understand more about how it can be treated, and how you can take the best care of your eyes for the future.

Is Retinopathy Reversible?

Generally speaking, retinopathy isn’t reversible. However, there are treatments available which can prevent the condition from worsening. One possible treatment is having injections in the eye, and this has been known to improve the sight of patients with retinopathy, but this isn’t the case for everyone.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

Treatment for diabetic retinopathy is offered when a screening detects problems which pose a risk to your vision. There are three main treatments for diabetic retinopathy:

        1. Laser Treatment

New blood vessels in your eye are weak and are prone to bleeding. Laser treatment targets these and can help stabilise them to prevent your vison worsening.
How does it work?
The treatment works by shining a laser into your eyes. Beforehand, you’ll be given local anaesthetic drops in your eyes to numb them and widen your pupils. You’ll also be given special contact lenses which will hold your eyes open and focus the laser to your retina. It doesn’t hurt, but you may experience a sharp jabbing sensation occasionally. This procedure takes between 20 and 40 minutes and works on an outpatient basis so you won’t need to stay overnight in hospital. However, it may require more than one session to work.
Any side effects or possible complications?
For a few hours after your treatment, you may experience:

  • Blurred sight – You won’t be able to drive back from the treatment, so take someone with you or arrange an alternative way home.
  • Sensitive to light – Take pair of sunglasses with you for afterwards.
  • Aching – Over-the-counter painkillers should help ease this.

All potential complications should be discussed with you before the treatment:

  • A reduction in night or peripheral vision – this may affect your ability to drive.
  • Floating substances or bleeding in your eye
  • Seeing the pattern made by the laser for a few months after treatment.
  • A small blind spot in the centre of your vision.

    2. Injections into the eye

A medicine, called anti-VEGF, can be injected into the eye in some cases of diabetic maculopathy to prevent new blood vessels forming at the back of the eye. This treatment could improve your vision, but it will stop it from getting worse.
How does it work?
In preparation for the injections, the area around your eyes is cleaned and then covered. Then, small keeps will be used to keep your eyes open and you’ll be given the eye drops to numb your eyes. Finally, an extremely thin needle is inserted into your eye and the injection is given. Typically, you’ll need to have this treatment carried out once a month but, once your vision levels out, they’ll be given to you less frequently or stopped altogether.
Any side effects or possible complications?
Side effects may include:

  • Irritation or discomfort in the eye
  • Floaters
  • Bleeding inside the eye
  • Watery or dry, itchy eyes

    3. An operation to remove blood or scar tissue from the eye

This operation removes some of a clear, jelly-like substance called vitreous humour from the space behind the lens of your eye. This may be required if a large quantity of blood has collect in your eye or there’s a lot of scar tissue which may cause retinal detachment.
How does it work?
Typically, the operation is carried out under local anaesthetic and sedation, so you won’t feel anything or even be aware of what’s happening. The surgeon will make a small incision in your eye, before removing some of the vitreous humour and scar tissue. Then a laser will be used on your eye to stop any further reduction in your sight.
After the surgery, you should be able to go home the same day. You might need to wear an eye patch for a few days after to prevent your eye from getting tired doing activities such as reading or looking at screens. Your vision may be blurred for a few months after the operation as this is a common side effect. This should settle down but it may take a little while.
Any side effects or possible complications?
There are some potential risks to undergoing this surgery:

  • Getting a cataract
  • Retinal detachment
  • Bleeding into the eye
  • Infection
  • Build-up of fluid in the cornea

Further information on these treatments will be provided to you if they’re recommended for your case of diabetic retinopathy. If retinopathy is detected in your screening, but it’s not serious enough to warrant any of the main treatments, there are ways to manage your diabetes and reduce the risks.

Healthy Eye Care for Diabetics

If diabetic retinopathy is detected, but it’s not at the stage where any of the above treatments are necessary, then there are things you can do to help reduce the impact and take care of your sight.



Manage your diabetes carefully
Although this sounds obvious, monitoring and controlling your diabetes will help to reduce the impact that retinopathy can have on your vision.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Try and cut down on your intake of salts, fats and sugars. This doesn’t mean you have to remove them completely from your diet, but just be mindful of the amount you’re eating.
Exercise regularly
This can be moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling, for 150 minutes or more. Or you could aim to reach 10,000 steps a day. However you choose to get your exercise in, make sure you do exercise regularly.


Not smoking is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There’s plenty of advice to be found on how to help you quit the habit.
Drink excessively
Not exceeding the recommended alcohol limits will help keep you healthy. It’s advised that men and women shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
Miss a diabetic retinopathy screening
It’s so important that you attend your screening appointments, as they’re in place to protect your vision. Skipping one could mean that something gets missed, so make sure you attend!

You need to take the best possible care of your eyes, as you only get one pair! Looking after them is easy as simple changes to your lifestyle can help make sure they’re in the best condition possible. Especially nowadays, as we spend so long staring at the screens of computers and phones, spare a thought for your eyes and make sure you’re giving them the attention they deserve.
For more information on how to take care of your eyes more generally, check out our Tips for Eye Health!
If you would like to make an appointment to discuss the health of your eyes, whether you have concerns in connection with diabetes or not, at Eyesite we are always happy to help. Book an appointment with us today!