Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

Retinopathy can lead to blindness but the good news is that it can be treated, especially if retinopathy progression is caught at an early stage.

It is likely that if you have had diabetes for a number of years, you may be at an early stage of having retinopathy.

It is therefore important to attend a retinopathy screening appointment each year.

Treating background retinopathy

Background retinopathy, also known as non-proliferative retinopathy, is when there are signs of retinopathy but not significant enough to need treatment to the eyes.

In background retinopathy, some of the blood vessels in the retina may become blocked, swollen or have leaked but in most cases this won’t disrupt vision and won’t present symptoms.

Treating background retinopathy involves keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and blood lipid levels well managed. Typical health targets for people with diabetes are:

  • HbA1c: achieve 48 mmol/mol or below (6.5% or below)
  • Blood pressure: achieve 130/80 mmHg or below
  • Blood lipids: achieve total cholesterol levels of less than 4 mmol/l and triglyceride levels of below 1.7 mmol/l

Adopting a healthy diet and taking regular physical activity is important in achieving these goals.

If you struggle to meet the health targets, your health team may prescribe medication.

Treating maculopathy

Maculopathy occurs if retinopathy causes damage to the blood vessels around the macula, the part of the eye responsible for our central vision and ability to see detail.

Such damage includes oedema, when fluid builds up in blood vessels causing them to swell and can result in protein leaking onto the macula.

  • The first line of treatment for maculopathy is laser photocoagulation treatment which is used to seal the blood vessels that are leaking.
  • If laser treatment is not effective, or maculopathy is more advanced, a drug called Anti-VEGF can be given as an injection.