Treating Eyes That Fail: Medication Can Treat Diabetes-Related Eye Problems

By Robin Williams Adams

LAKELAND | Drugs that inhibit a growth-promoting protein called VEGF are bringing better vision to some people who have diabetes-related eye problems.

VEGF, which stands for vascular endothelial growth factor, stimulates growth of blood vessels. That’s good for babies developing in the womb, but it isn’t good for diabetic eyes.

Heightened research into anti-VEGF drugs shows some drugs to combat VEGF are good in treating diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. Both conditions threaten diabetics’ vision.

Diabetic retinopathy damages small blood vessels in the retina, light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Existing vessels leak fluid. New blood vessels may form.

In diabetic macular edema, injured blood vessels leak fluid near the macula, the center of the retina, causing it to swell.

Many clinical eye trials of anti-VEGF drugs focused on diabetic macular edema, but improvements also were seen in diabetic retinopathy.

“Eyes treated with anti-VEGFs typically have shown regression of the diabetic retinopathy,” said Dr. Scott Friedman of Florida Retina Consultants. The Lakeland retina specialist was involved in studies of those drugs.

Use of anti-VEGF drugs has become a standard practice in treating diabetic macular edema, said Dr. Richard S. Hamilton, retina specialist with the Center for Retina and Macular Disease. The center has offices in seven Central Florida cities. Its research centers are in Lakeland and Winter Haven.

In February and March, the Food and Drug Administration approved Lucentis and Eylea injections — anti-VEGF agents used to treat diabetic macular edema — for treating diabetic retinopathy in patients who have diabetic macular edema (DME).

Lucentis and Eylea also are approved to treat DME and macular edema secondary to retinal vein occlusions, blockage of small veins that carry blood away from the retina. What’s also exciting, Hamilton said, are different types of drugs now in trials that wouldn’t require injections the way these drugs do.…….

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Source: The Ledger