For people with eye complications from diabetes, the drug Lucentis may be an effective option for preventing serious damage and blindness, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network say their findings on Lucentis represent the first major advance in diabetes-related eye therapy in 40 years.

The study compared the drug to scatter laser therapy, which is used to help improve central vision and is the standard treatment for diabetic retinopathy. Lucentis, researchers found, helped to produced better improvements in central vision than laser therapy – and it came without common laser therapy side effects, like decreased night vision or side vision.

How Lucentis works

Lucentis is given as an injection into the eye, and it may be repeated once every month for several months. The drug works to reduce swelling around the retina.

Researchers found that participants given the drug were less likely to develop macular edema than people treated with laser therapy.

While the findings point to better treatment options for diabetic retinopathy, early diagnosis and prevention is the best approach, researchers warned.

“Only about half of all people with diabetes get an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam, which is essential for detecting diabetic eye disease early, when it is most treatable,” said Dr. Paul A. Sieving, from the National Eye Institute (NEI).

Well-controlled diabetes – prescription medication adherence, a healthy weight, smoking cessation and regular exercise – is the best way to prevent vision problems, the NEI’s guidelines state.

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