Diabetes is reportedly the number one cause of blindness in the United States. Until recently, there was no way to reverse it. However, a fairly new drug recently approved by the FDA is changing that.
"It was one of those things that's hard to believe," said Sonny Groves, a portrait photographer. He found out he had diabetes 20 years ago. "As the disease progressed, I had problems like neuropathy in the hands and feet, that sort of thing," Groves said.
His vision also started to go. That's when he was referred to the Medical Center Ophthalmology Associates.
"Better control of your blood sugar will give us better control of the back of your eye," said Dr. Michael Singer as he examined Groves' vision. Singer is the director of clinical trials at MCOA.
"Dr. Singer was the first one to notice I had any problems because he noticed tiny bleeders in my retina," Groves said.
"When tissues are deprived of oxygen, they scream for help. They send out a signal called VEGF," said Singer.
The VEGF sends new blood vessels to help the tissues, but that's not a good thing.
"Instead of being helpful, they are actually harmful. They cause swelling in the central part of your vision," Singer said.
In comes a drug called Lucentis.
"This is the first time the FDA has approved a drug like this to reverse the disease," Singer said. The usage is for diabetic retinopathy in patients either with or without diabetic macular edema. This latest approval broadens the diabetic retinopathy indication to include patients both with and without diabetic macular edema.
That disease is called diabetic macular edema. Lucentis is a shot given in the white of the eye after it is numbed. The typical Lucentis dose for diabetic retinopathy is 0.3 mg, which is slightly lower than the 0.5 mg dose used for other eye diseases.
"The process takes literally about two seconds and the results can be seen as early as three days," Singer said.
Groves said the results were amazing.
"When I started taking the Lucentis, it got better. The swelling that causes all of that stopped," Groves said.
"They go from a situation where they are not seeing as well to actually improving their vision and increasing activities they are able to do in their daily life," Singer said.
Now, thanks to Lucentis, Groves said he doesn't have to stop being a photographer.
Some of the side effects of Lucentis could be eye irritation, eye pain, dry eyes or some potentially serious side effects.
Uncommon side effects could reportedly include changes in vision and eye infections.