My doctor says I have mild diabetic retinopathy but doesn't recommend medications or surgery. Can't I do something now before I develop macular edema or vision loss? I want to preserve my vision.

Medications and surgery usually aren't necessary for mild diabetic retinopathy. In this diabetes-related eye condition, tiny bulges (microaneurysms) protrude from the blood vessel walls in the retina at the back of the eye, but often don't cause symptoms or any real problems. The best treatment is controlling your diabetes with diet and exercise.

Right now, you can protect your vision by:

  • Scheduling a comprehensive eye exam if it's been more than a year. It's important to schedule a complete eye health check (comprehensive eye exam) with a doctor who specializes in eye disease, not just an eyeglass prescription check. Ask your doctor how often you should have a comprehensive eye exam.
  • Keeping your numbers under control. Managing your blood sugar and blood pressure reduces the risk of vision loss as well as improves your overall health.

If your retinopathy worsens or if you develop swelling in the central part of your retina — known as diabetic macular edema — there are several effective treatments your doctor might suggest:

  • Laser surgery. Your doctor applies drops that numb your eye. Then, he or she uses a laser to burn up to several hundred small holes around the center of your retina. The burns reduce the leaking of fluid that can cause vision loss.
  • Medications. One of several drugs may be injected into your eye to reduce fluid and prevent the growth of new blood vessels in the retina.
  • Vitrectomy. In this surgery, your doctor makes a tiny incision to remove scar tissue and drain the fluid in your eye and replace it with a saline solution. This procedure can often be done in an outpatient setting.

Good diabetes control, early detection of diabetes-related eye problems and treatment are key to preventing and even reversing vision loss. The earlier you get on the right track, the better your chances of preserving your vision.


Alaina L. Softing Hataye, O.D.

March 02, 2018 See more Expert Answers