Comparative-Effectiveness Study Confirms New Treatment for Diabetic Macular Edema
Researchers have shown that ranibizumab (Lucentis) eye injections, often in combination with laser treatment, result in better vision than laser treatment alone for diabetes-associated swelling of the retina.
Balintfy: Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in working-age Americans. This condition damages the small blood vessels in the eye's light-sensitive tissue, called the retina.
Cartwright: I suddenly realized when I was driving that I couldn't see the road signs nor the highway signs, and my first thought was that I needed driving glasses.
Balintfy: Sallie Cartwright went to her ophthalmologist, and after a very thorough examination, found out she needed to go to a retina specialist as soon as possible.
Cartwright: My right eye was worthless and my left eye was legally blind, and glasses would not help me.
Balintfy: When damaged blood vessels begin to leak fluid near the center of the retina, known as the macula, macular edema occurs. In macular edema the retinal tissue swells, which can lead to vision loss if left untreated. Dr. Neil M. Bressler from the Wilmer Eye Institute, at the Johns Hopkins University explains.
Bressler: People who have macular edema from diabetes actually have developed some damage to the blood vessels that are lining the back part of the eye. This is the light-sensitive portion of the eye that helps us see, and unfortunately in people with diabetes, these blood vessels can be damaged. That damage leads to fluid leaking in the retinal tissue, which then swells and with that swelling, very often you can have vision loss.
Balintfy: Laser treatment has been the standard care for the past 25 years. But new research is showing that eye injections of a medication, often in combination with laser treatment, result in better vision than laser treatment alone.
Bressler: The new treatment option now is to use a new drug, which is called Ranibizumab, or the trade name is Lucentis, and by injecting that as often as every four weeks for at least one to two years, we found that you could get improvement in vision about 50 percent of the time.
Balintfy: A recent study involved 52 clinical sites that are part of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network, which is chaired by Dr. Bressler. He says the results of this study likely will have a major impact on how ophthalmologists treat macular edema in people with diabetes.
Bressler: This is the first time in 25 years that we have definitive proof that a new treatment can likely lead to even better results, and this is very important because diabetes is not only common, but unfortunately it’s growing in its prevalence.
Ferris: We think the results from this large multi-center trial will provide new treatments for our patients with diabetic macular edema beyond laser and will improve their chances of good vision in the future.
Balintfy: That's Dr. Frederick L. Ferris III, Clinical Director at the National Eye Institute. He adds that these treatments are really just the beginning.
Ferris: We now know we can improve on laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy. There are many studies that we have planned to further refine how we can better help our patients with diabetic macular edema.
Balintfy: For patients like Sallie Cartwright who participated in the study, results are already tangible.
Cartwright: So to go from worthless and legally blind to seeing at 20/20, which is perfect vision without glasses is incredible.
Balintfy: For more about Diabetic Macular Edema, this study and eye-health research, visit www.nei.nih.gov. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Dr. Neil M. Bressler, Sallie Cartwright
Topic: retinopathy, retinopathy, retina, vision, vision loss, blindness, diabetes, macula, macular edema, diabetic macular edema, treatment, laser treatment