In reponse to poor circulation in the retina from diabetic retinopathy, new blood vessels sometimes grow. This is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

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Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. In this condition, the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) become damaged due to prolonged high levels of blood sugar. As a result, the retina responds by growing new, abnormal blood vessels.

These new blood vessels are fragile and can leak blood into the vitreous, the gel-like substance that fills the center of the eye. This can cause vision problems, including blurred or distorted vision. Additionally, the abnormal blood vessels may lead to the formation of scar tissue, which can pull on the retina and cause it to detach.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is a serious and sight-threatening complication, and early detection and treatment are crucial to prevent further vision loss. Regular eye exams for individuals with diabetes are essential to monitor and manage any diabetic-related eye problems.


The treatment for proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) typically involves addressing the abnormal blood vessels and managing complications to prevent further vision loss. Here are some common treatment options:

Panretinal Photocoagulation (PRP): This is a type of laser treatment where scattered laser burns are applied to the peripheral areas of the retina. This helps to reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

Intravitreal Injections: Medications, such as anti-VEGF drugs, may be injected into the vitreous to reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels and decrease swelling.

Vitrectomy: In more advanced cases of PDR, where there is significant bleeding into the vitreous or traction on the retina from scar tissue, a vitrectomy may be performed. During this surgery, the vitreous gel is removed, and any scar tissue pulling on the retina is also removed.

It’s important to note that the choice of treatment depends on the specific characteristics and severity of the individual case. Early detection and timely intervention are crucial in managing proliferative diabetic retinopathy and preventing further vision loss. Regular eye exams and close monitoring by an eye care professional are essential for individuals with diabetes.

Panretinal photocoagulation

Panretinal photocoagulation (PRP) is a laser treatment commonly used for proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). The goal of PRP is to reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina, which is a characteristic feature of PDR.

Here’s how PRP works and its effectiveness:

  1. Procedure: During a panretinal photocoagulation procedure, a laser is used to create multiple small laser burns or spots in the peripheral areas of the retina. The laser burns are strategically placed to cover a wide area of the retina, but they spare the central vision. The goal is to induce controlled damage to the peripheral retina, reducing the stimulus for the growth of abnormal blood vessels.
  2. Reduction of Abnormal Blood Vessels: The laser burns cause the abnormal blood vessels to regress, decreasing the risk of bleeding into the vitreous and reducing the potential for vision-threatening complications.
  3. Prevention of Vision Loss: By reducing the growth of abnormal blood vessels, PRP helps to prevent further vision loss and complications associated with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, such as vitreous hemorrhage and retinal detachment.
  4. Effectiveness: Panretinal photocoagulation has been shown to be effective in slowing down or halting the progression of proliferative diabetic retinopathy. It is a standard treatment used to stabilize the condition and prevent severe vision loss. However, it’s important to note that PRP doesn’t restore vision that has already been lost; its primary aim is to preserve the existing vision and prevent further deterioration.

While PRP is effective, the treatment may have some side effects, such as reduced peripheral vision and night vision. The benefits and potential risks of PRP should be discussed with an ophthalmologist, and the decision to undergo the procedure should be based on the individual characteristics of the patient’s condition. Regular follow-up visits are typically required to monitor the response to treatment and address any changes in the condition.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy with vitreous hemorrhage

Intravitreal injection therapies, specifically anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications, are used in the treatment of proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). Here’s an overview of the injection therapies, how they work, and their effectiveness:

  1. Anti-VEGF Medications: Drugs such as bevacizumab, ranibizumab, aflibercept, and vabysmo are anti-VEGF medications commonly used in the management of PDR. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a protein that promotes the growth of new blood vessels. In PDR, there is an overproduction of VEGF, leading to the growth of abnormal and leaky blood vessels in the retina.
  2. Mechanism of Action: Anti-VEGF medications work by blocking the action of VEGF, thereby inhibiting the growth of abnormal blood vessels. By reducing the leakage and growth of these vessels, these medications help to stabilize the retina and prevent complications such as vitreous hemorrhage and retinal detachment.
  3. Intravitreal Injections: These medications are injected directly into the vitreous cavity of the eye using a fine needle. The injections are typically performed in an ophthalmologist’s office. The frequency of injections depends on the specific medication and the severity of the condition, with some patients requiring ongoing treatments.
  4. Effectiveness: Anti-VEGF injections have been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of diabetic retinopathy and preventing vision loss. They are often used as a primary or adjunctive treatment, particularly in cases where there is macular edema (swelling in the central part of the retina). Additionally, anti-VEGF therapy may be used before or after other interventions, such as laser treatment or vitrectomy.

While anti-VEGF injections can be effective, the treatment may need to be administered regularly, and the response can vary among individuals. Close monitoring by an eye care professional is essential to determine the appropriate treatment plan and adjust it as needed based on the patient’s response. As with any medical intervention, potential risks and benefits should be discussed with the treating physician.


Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure used in the treatment of advanced stages of proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), particularly when there are complications that threaten vision. Here’s an overview of vitrectomy, its indications, and its effectiveness:

  1. Vitrectomy Procedure: During a vitrectomy, the vitreous gel that fills the center of the eye is removed to address complications associated with PDR. The surgery is typically performed by an ophthalmologist and involves the use of small instruments to remove the vitreous gel.
  2. Indications for Vitrectomy in PDR:
    • Vitreous Hemorrhage: If there is significant bleeding into the vitreous, causing impaired vision.
    • Tractional Retinal Detachment: When scar tissue forms on the retina, pulling it away from its normal position and causing retinal detachment.
    • Persistent Macular Edema: If there is persistent swelling in the central part of the retina (macula) that does not respond to other treatments.
  3. Effectiveness: The effectiveness of vitrectomy in improving visual acuity depends on the specific complications being addressed and the timing of the surgery. Vitrectomy can be highly effective in restoring or preserving vision in cases of vitreous hemorrhage or tractional retinal detachment caused by PDR. However, it may not reverse damage that has already occurred, and its success is influenced by factors such as the severity of the condition and the overall health of the eye.
  4. Postoperative Care: After vitrectomy, patients typically require postoperative care and follow-up appointments to monitor the healing process and address any potential complications. Visual recovery may take some time, and the improvement in visual acuity can vary among individuals.

It’s important to note that while vitrectomy can be successful in addressing complications of PDR, preventing the progression of diabetic retinopathy through regular monitoring and early intervention is crucial. The decision to undergo vitrectomy is typically based on a thorough evaluation by an ophthalmologist, taking into consideration the specific characteristics of the individual case.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with vitrectomy, and potential benefits should be weighed against these risks. Patients should discuss their specific situation and treatment options with their eye care professional.

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