While the majority of people with diabetes will experience some level of diabetic retinopathy, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to suffer from it or go blind from it. Multiple options of treatment, as discovered by researchers like Kang Zhang, are available to patients with this condition. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the retina of a diabetic person’s eyes begins over-producing blood vessels. This is caused by the excess blood glucose in the person’s system obstructing oxygen flow to the eye. The lack of oxygen triggers the body to try and create extra blood vessels to compensate, resulting in weaker, crowded, swollen, and leaking blood vessels that cause vision loss. Without treatment, this can lead to permanent scarification and damage to the retina.
The genes in your DNA are, among many other things, in charge of creating and healing your body parts. That includes your blood vessels. The major player in blood vessel creation is known as VEGF. While suppressing this gene throughout your entire body would likely prove deadly or at least highly detrimental, it can be prevented from functioning locally, in your eye. This is accomplished by your doctor injecting a VEGF-suppressant drug into the fluid that fills your eye. These injections have to be repeated regularly, and not everyone responds the same way, but it is a common method for stalling the advance of retinopathy.
Think of lasers like extremely focused beams of fire, or just picture lightsabers. Only the sabers used in laser surgery are extremely tiny. In retinopathy laser surgery, the deviant blood vessels clogging your eye are cauterized. This seals them and prevents any additional swelling, leaking, or excess growth. Though this treatment doesn’t restore lost vision, it can be combined with other treatment to have a high success rate of preventing blindness. This method tends to be used in the earlier stages of diabetic retinopathy.
In the later stages of retinopathy, your vision may become clouded due to retinal detachment or blood vessel leakage into your retina. Other times, you may have an excessive buildup of scar tissue that your doctor needs to remove. A vitrectomy consists of the removal of these obstructions and can provide some restoration to lost vision.
Other treatments exist, such as steroids, but those can increase risks of other eye problems. Overall, eye doctors have many tools within these three listed types of treatment to help slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Remember to consult your doctor on your options and what is right for you.