Help and frequently asked questions

What are the treatments for retinopathy?


Treatments for retinopathy will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Retinopathy is the term given to ongoing or acute damage to the layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye, known as the retina. This can be caused by diabetes, exposure to sunlight or radiation, hypertension, trauma or diseases such as sickle cell anaemia. If left untreated the condition can result in blindness.

In diabetes, high blood sugar levels damage the retina, while high blood pressure is the reason for hypertensive retinopathy. These are two of the more common causes for retinopathy.Retinopathy in the early stages may not require immediate treatment, but you should make sure you regularly visit your optometrist and ophthalmologist to monitor the progress of the condition.You will often be given recommendations on how to better control your diabetes, if this is the cause, or prescribed drugs that lower your blood pressure where necessary.

Are there specific treatments for diabetic retinopathy?

There are surgical options for diabetic retinopathy. These include laser surgery, anti-VEGF injections and vitrectomies.

Laser treatment: If you have advanced retinopathy with a considerable amount of bleeding in the blood vessels of the eye, you may be offered photocoagulation laser therapy.Local anaesthetic will be used to numb the surface of the eye and then small laser beams will be aimed at the damaged parts of the retina. This seals off any blood vessels and can eliminate abnormal blood vessel growth.While the treatment is not painful, you may feel an uncomfortable pricking sensation when specific parts of the retina are targeted.

Intravitreal anti-VEGF injections: Usually used to treat age-related macular degeneration, intravitreal anti-VEGF injections have been shown to improve diabetic retinopathy.The procedure involves a medication being injected directly into the eye to stop damaged blood vessels from leaking. Your eye will be kept open throughout the procedure using a clip. Anaesthetic eye drops are used to numb the area beforehand.

Vitrectomy: In particularly advanced cases of retinopathy, a vitrectomy may be the best option. During the procedure some or all of the jelly-like substance in the eye (vitreous humour) is removed.This may be necessary where lots of blood has collected in the centre of the eye or a retinal detachment has occurred. The vitreous humour is replaced by a gas or liquid to ensure the retina stays in place and tiny clamps may also be used to strengthen the retina's position.