Eye Injections Improve Vision in Diabetics

Millions of Americans each year face vision loss related to diabetes. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 28 percent of diabetics over the age of 40 have a condition called diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, occurs when blood vessels in the retina become damaged. Sometimes fluid leaks through the walls of these vessels, causing swelling in the macula, the part of the eye that controls sharp, straight-ahead and reading vision.

In other cases, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Left untreated, these vessels cause bleeding in the eye. It is one of the leading causes of blindness among working-age Americans.

“The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to prevent it,” explains David Orth, M.D., retinal specialist and medical director of the Irwin Retina Center at Ingalls. “Strict control of your blood sugar will significantly reduce the long-term risk of vision loss.”

Sixty-seven-year-old Jimmie Stevenson of Kankakee was diagnosed with Type II diabetes 25 years ago, but it wasn’t until five years ago that he noticed changes in his vision. Cataract surgery with implants in both eyes helped somewhat, but he continued to have blurring and clouded vision in his left eye.

That’s when he went to see Dr. Orth and learned he had diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema.

To combat Jimmie’s vision problems, Dr. Orth recommended injections of the FDA-approved drug Lucentis, an anti-growth factor drug that reduces the swelling in the center of the retina.

“Lucentis is used to reduce the swelling caused by fluid at the back of the eye and is thought to possibly reduce new blood vessel growth,” Dr. Orth said.

The injection — administered into the eye about once a month — has been shown to maintain or improve visual acuity in patients with diabetic macular edema.

It is intended to be used with good diabetic blood sugar control. Laser treatment is also used in certain cases of diabetic retinopathy.

“The injections have helped,” Jimmie said. “I’ve had about six shots over the last year. If my eye looks good when I go to see Dr. Orth, then I don’t need an injection during that visit.”

With better control of his diabetes and ongoing treatment for his vision problems, Jimmie enjoys spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren and pursuing one of his favorite hobbies — fishing with his brother in Minnesota.

“I’m so grateful to Dr. Orth and the Irwin Retina Center,” he added.

If you or someone you know has diabetes-related vision loss, contact the experts at the Irwin Retina Center at Ingalls at 708.915.6800.

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