Neovascular Glaucoma: What Is This Serious Complication Of Diabetes And How Is It Treated?

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to numerous problems with your eye health, and one of the most serious is neovascular glaucoma. Neovascular glaucoma occurs when new blood vessels grow in your eyes and block the ducts that allow the vitreous fluid in your eye to drain out. The vitreous fluid builds up, increasing pressure inside your eye. This can lead to vision loss since the high pressure can damage the optic nerve inside your eye that transmits the images you see from your eye to your brain.

If you have diabetes, it's important to control your blood glucose well and receive regular eye exams so that treatment can begin early if you start showing signs of neovascular glaucoma. To learn more about what causes neovascular glaucoma and how it can be treated, read on.

What Causes Neovascular Glaucoma?

Uncontrolled diabetes will impair your blood circulation, including the circulation in your eye. When the cells in the retina of your eye don't receive enough oxygen due to this poor circulation, they'll start to die off. This is a condition called diabetic retinopathy. The dying cells in the retina will release a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which causes new blood vessels to grow in your eye.

The dying cells release VEGF in an attempt to improve circulation and receive more oxygen by creating new blood vessels. Unfortunately, these new blood vessels can block the ducts that allow vitreous fluid to drain from your eye when they start growing in the front portion of your eye where the ducts are located.

What Are the Symptoms of Neovascular Glaucoma?

Neovascular glaucoma commonly causes pain and redness in your eyes, and you may be able to see the new blood vessels growing in your eyes when you look in a mirror. As new blood vessels continue to grow and fluid builds up in your eye, the increased pressure can cause your vision to deteriorate as your optic nerve is damaged.

When the blood vessels in your eye first start growing, they normally don't block drainage from your eye, and you won't have any symptoms. That's why regular eye exams are important if you have diabetes since an optometrist can see the new blood vessels starting to form in your eye by examining it with a bright light. Detecting the growth of new blood vessels in your eye allows you to start treating your neovascular glaucoma before it has the chance to damage your optic nerve.

What Are the Treatments for Neovascular Glaucoma? 

If you're diagnosed with neovascular glaucoma, part of your treatment will be glaucoma eye drops. These eye drops dilate the ducts in your eye to improve drainage, and they also reduce the amount of vitreous fluid that your eye produces. Both will decrease the amount of pressure in your eye, which helps protect your optic nerve and preserve your vision.

For neovascular glaucoma, however, standard glaucoma medication isn't enough to fully treat the disease. You'll also need to prevent the disease from progressing and destroy the blood vessels that are preventing the fluid in your eye from draining. An ophthalmologist can inject medication into your retina that reduces the amount of VEGF in your eye, which stops new blood vessels from forming. Afterward, they can destroy the blood vessels in your eye that is preventing drainage using a high-intensity laser. The laser will heat them up and destroy them, and they'll be reabsorbed into your eye.

If you have diabetes and have pain or redness in your eye, it's important to schedule an eye exam as soon as possible to check for neovascular glaucoma. Prompt diabetic eye treatment can save your vision by preventing your optic nerve from being damaged, and it's best to treat the problem early — stopping the new blood vessels from forming in your eye will limit the fluid buildup, protecting your optic nerve.

Check out this hyperlink to learn more about diabetic eye treatment.