HealthWatch: Eye Injections Save Linda's Sight

TAMPA, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Twenty-nine million Americans have diabetes, which can lead to a host of serious health problems; among them something called diabetic retinopathy. It's the most common cause of vision loss in diabetic patients.  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 told Ivanhoe.

Swiercinsky has diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar causes the capillaries in the eye to close.  The blood vessels can swell and leak fluid.

Dana Deupree, M.D., FACS, a vitreoretinal surgeon at The Macula Center in Tampa, detailed. "It often can be very subtle, and that's a little bit of the problem. It can be a very silent disease."

Dr. Deupree uses an 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," Dr. Deupree told Ivanhoe.

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.

Dr. Deupree explained, "It's a very tiny implanted device. 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.

Dr. Deupree said, "Saving peoples' vision is very cost effective. 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.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Emily Maza Gleason, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Travis Bell, Videographer.

 

BACKGROUND: Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss for diabetic patients and it is the leading cause of blindness and impairment for American adults. People with either type 1 or 2 diabetes can be affected by this disease and the risk increases the longer the patient has diabetes. Between 40-45 percent of American patients who have diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, but only about half are aware of it. Women, who develop diabetes while pregnant, develop a greater risk for this eye condition. The symptoms of this condition are most of the time non-existent; for this reason most people don't realize they have the disease until they start losing their vision. Nevertheless, if a person is experiencing any of the following, they may be developing diabetic retinopathy:

* Seeing spots or floaters

* Experiencing blurred vision

* Having a dark or empty spot in the center of the vision

* Difficulty seeing at night

(Source: https://nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy & http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy?sso=y) 

 

TREATMENTS: The treatments for the eye disease depend upon how advanced the condition has become. If diabetic retinopathy is in its early stages, the common treatment will be regular monitoring; controlling blood sugar levels by diet and exercise since these can help delay the progression of the disease. If the condition advances, diabetic retinopathy is treated with scatter laser surgery. The surgery involves 1,000 to 2,000 tiny laser burns in the retina causing abnormal blood vessels to shrink. The treatment can be completed in one session, but sometimes two or three sessions are required. Scatter laser surgery can stop diabetic retinopathy from causing total blindness, but the procedure can end peripheral, color and night vision.  

(Source: https://nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy & www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy?sso=y)  

 

BREAKTHROUGH TREATMENTS: New treatments for diabetic retinopathy, like anti-VEGF, have been approved by the FDA and used in patients who suffer from the condition. The procedure consists of injecting the drug into the pupil of the eye. The medication blocks certain harmful proteins in order to help reduce swelling, leakage, and the growth of unwanted abnormal blood vessels in the retina. The treatment also improves vision. The drug may be injected once, or in a series of intervals every four to six weeks. Another new treatment is an injectable implant that slowly releases steroids into the body which leads to the same results as anti-VEGF. These two new treatments can be used together in order to replace laser surgery.

(Source: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/diabetic-retinopathy-treatment & Dr. Dana Deupree) 

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:

The Macula Center 

727-789-8770

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

 


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