Twenty-nine million Americans have diabetes, which can lead to a host of serious health problems; among them diabetic retinopathy. It’s the most common cause of vision loss in diabetic patients. But new treatments are helping patients stay in focus.
Linda Swiercinsky’s driving days were nearly in her rearview mirror.
“My left eye, I was almost blind and I had trouble getting my driver’s license back in Illinois, so I knew I had to do something,” Swiercinsky said.
Swiercinsky has diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar causes the capillaries in the eye to close. The blood vessels can swell and leak fluid.
“It often can be very subtle, and that’s a little bit of the problem,” said Dr. Dana Deupree, a vitreo-retina surgeon. “It can be a very silent disease.”
Dr. Deupree uses this injectable drug, called anti-VEGF, that directly blocks certain harmful proteins to get rid of leakage and bleeding.
“We numb the eye up completely and the whole process takes a couple minutes,” Deupree said.
He’s also using this new injectable implant that slowly releases steroids into the eye over the course of three years. Swiercinsky had this procedure.
“It’s a very tiny little implanted device,” Deupree said. “Much smaller than a grain of rice. Stays in your eye and delivers the drug and it helps stabilize these eyes. It gets the swelling down, inflammation down.”
If the damage is too advanced than surgery may be needed.
“Saving people’s vision is very cost effective,” Deupree said. “People who go blind, it’s a horrible thing.”
Now Swiercinsky’s back in the driver’s seat to stay.
Complications with some treatments could be increased eye pressure. Dr. Deupree said diabetics should get an eye exam at least once a year. He said prevention is the safest way to keep eye sight stable.