For people with diabetic or hypertensive retinopathy, treating the underlying condition damaging the retina (high blood glucose or elevated blood pressure) will help prevent progression of the retinopathy (Heng 2013; Koby 2014; Wong 2004). Aside from control of the underlying trigger of the retinal disease, there are multiple options for treating retinopathy.
One of the major goals when treating retinopathy is the destruction of dysfunctional, abnormal blood vessels. Two techniques that use this approach are cryotherapy and photocoagulation (Paysse 2013; Koby 2014). Cryotherapy involves freezing the peripheral retina through the eye, but this technique has largely been replaced by photocoagulation. With photocoagulation, heat from an argon laser is used on the damaged retinal area (Paysse 2013). One of two approaches are used for diabetic retinopathy; focal or scatter (pan-retinal) photocoagulation. Focal photocoagulation is used to seal leaking blood vessels in specific regions of the retina, while scatter photocoagulation is used to make many small laser burns to stop blood vessel growth over larger areas of the retina (Yanoff 2010).
Possible side effects of photocoagulation include bleeding in the eye (vitreous hemorrhage), traction and detachment of the retina, or accidental burns to the central retina which may lead to central vision loss. Vitrectomy, the surgical removal of the gel-like substance in the middle of the eye (called vitreous humor) and replacement with a clear solution can remove areas of hemorrhage, improve vision, and allow for the repair of detached retinas (Arrigg 1998; Smiddy 1999). The major indications for vitreous surgery are vitreous bleeding that does not subside and certain forms of retinal detachment (Singh 2008).