Laser surgery has been the only approved treatment for diabetic macular edema (DME), the term that refers to vision loss caused by diabetes – until now.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Friday that it's approving the drug Lucentis as a treatment for DME, which makes it the first medicine approved for treating the condition.
A press release on the approval says the standard of care for DME hasn't changed in more than a quarter-century, noting that laser surgery merely slows the rate of vision loss and helps to stabilize vision, all with limited success.
Lucentis, though, can help folks with DME "rapidly regain substantial amounts of lost vision," said Dr. Hal Barron, chief medical officer of Global Product Development in a statement.
The medication, which is taken via monthly injection from a medical professional, along with normal blood sugar regulation, gives health providers another tool to add to their arsenal against diabetes. HealthDay reports that up to 26 million Americans have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and the latest data available from the L.A. County Department of Public Health estimates that nearly 14 percent of southside residents have the disease.
South L.A. community health clinics have gotten creative in how they diagnose impending vision loss in diabetics even in the face of limited resources, using telemedicine to get photos of patients' retinas to specialists on the other end of the state.
The FDA, added that common side effects include bleeding behind the eyelids, eye pain, floaters (small spots that appear in your field of vision) and increased pressure inside the eye.
Photo by Ray Lopez via Flickr Creative Commons.