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Surgery, Drugs Similar for Treating Severe Diabetic Eye Disease

THURSDAY, Dec. 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Surgery and injectable drugs are equally effective in treating a serious diabetes-related eye condition, a new study indicates.

It included 205 patients with bleeding inside the eye due to proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), a disorder in which new, abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina.

These blood vessels often bleed into the gel-like vitreous that fills the eye, resulting in vision loss, the researchers explained.

"This is a very common disease for patients with diabetes – particularly after living with diabetes over several decades," said Dr. Jennifer Sun, chairwoman of Diabetes Initiatives for the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Network (DRCR.net).

For the study, 100 patients received injections of the drug aflibercept (Eylea), and 105 had vitrectomy surgery and laser photocoagulation to remove blood from their eyes and prevent regrowth of blood vessels.

Four weeks later, sharpness of vision (visual acuity) in the surgery group was significantly higher than in the patients treated with medication. But after 24 weeks, visual acuity was the same in both groups.

After two years, both had similar levels of visual acuity, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute-supported study.

About 1 in 3 patients in each group eventually received both types of treatment.

The findings were published Dec. 15 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"This clinical trial was an opportunity to compare two commonly used treatments for vitreous hemorrhage from proliferative diabetic retinopathy head-to-head. The results provide useful guidance for clinicians who are managing patients with this condition," said Adam Glassman, director of the DRCR.net Coordinating Center at the Jaeb Center for Health Research in Tampa, Fla.

Sun said both strategies are excellent treatments for patients who are experiencing vision loss due to bleeding.

"But there are some subtleties to this study that will help clinicians tailor their treatment plans for an individual patient," she added in a network news release.

More information

The U.S.National Eye Institute has more on diabetic retinopathy.

SOURCE: U.S. National Eye Institute, news release, Dec. 10, 2020

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