Diabetic blindness, also called diabetic retinopathy, cannot be cured completely. But there are certain measures that can be taken to prevent and treat this condition. Treatment largely depends upon the extent and type of vision loss the patient experiences. The most common cause of vision loss with diabetes is swelling of the macula of the retina.
This is called macular edema. The middle part of the retina is called macula, which allows us to see every thing in detail. With macular edema, blood vessels of the eyes get weak. They often lead to leaking of blood into retina from blood vessels. It can damage your vision severely or even cause complete blindness.
If macular edema is present, patient needs immediate treatment. Close monitoring of the eyes will determine whether you need treatment right away. But treatment is not required for first three stages of retinopathy. For preventing vision loss, you need to work with your endocrinologist to manage your diabetes in the best possible way, that is, by taking good control of blood sugar level and also maintaining your cholesterol level and blood pressure. If retinopathy is in moderate stage, taking good care of yourself will slow the progression and prevent diabetic blindness.
Treatment for Diabetic Blindness
It is true that there is no cure for diabetic blindness. But in most cases, laser treatment is very effective in preventing vision loss provided it is carried out before the retina is seriously damaged. For the first three stages of vision loss, you may not require laser treatment. If macular edema has damaged the macula, you may be recommended laser treatment. For more serious vision loss, following treatments are carried out. Depending on the specific condition of the retina, following options are available.
Focal Laser Treatment
Focal Laser treatment can stop or slow down the leakage of fluid or blood from the eye. It is carried out in a doctor’s clinic. Before surgery, the doctor will dilate your pupil and use drops to numb your eyes.
Leaks are treated with laser burns and treatment is carried out in a single session. Your pupil will remain dilated for a few hours after the procedure. This surgery will improve your vision but if you have swelling on the macula, your normal vision may not return.
Scatter Laser Treatment
Scatter laser treatment is used to shrink the abnormal blood vessels. Three or four laser sessionsare carried out to restore vision known as Proliferative retinopathy. Scattered laser burns are used to treat the specific area of the retina. After the procedure, vision is restored but patient may experience decrease in color and night vision and lose side vision as well.
When there is bleeding from the middle of the eye (vitreous hemorrhage) and severe scar tissues are formed, vitrectomy is done to remove blood and scars and restore vision. This procedure is done in the hospital using general anesthesia. Scar tissues and blood are removed using delicate instruments. The vitreous gel is replaced with salt solution. After the surgery, you need to wear eye patch and use eye drops for few days for the protection of the eye.
Surgery in most cases is effective in delaying and reducing vision loss, but it is not the ultimate solution. Even after surgery, vision loss is possible as diabetes is a condition that persists throughout one’s life. So, after the treatment, regular eye check-up is required along with follow up care.