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Eye Injections for Diabetes Eye Problems: 8 Facts To Know

Medically reviewed by Paul B. Griggs, M.D.
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on June 14, 2024

Diabetes can affect your eyes and vision in a few different ways. Two of these conditions — diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema (DME) — may be treated with eye injections.

If your doctor has recently suggested eye injections, it’s easy to feel confused or worried. If this treatment is right for you, it’s important to learn about the injections and the procedure to ensure you feel confident in your decision.

1. Two Eye Conditions Related to Diabetes Can Be Treated With Injections

As noted above, both diabetic retinopathy and DME may be treated with injections in your eyes.

Diabetic retinopathy develops when your blood sugar levels are high for a long time. The extra sugar in your bloodstream can make it more difficult for blood to flow through the tiny vessels in your body. These may become blocked and then leak when blood builds up. In response, your body may create new blood vessels, which don’t work as well.


“I have had two injections in my left eye, one more to go. Then the doctor will examine my eyes and decide if I need more treatment.”

— A DiabetesTeam member

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When this happens in the part of your eye that is sensitive to light, called the retina, it’s called diabetic retinopathy. Your retina is located at the back of the eye.

Diabetic retinopathy can cause diabetic macular edema, which is swelling in a particular part of your retina, the macula. You may experience different symptoms based on which part of your retina swells. The macula swells because of fluid that leaks out of your blood vessels and builds up there. This condition can’t be reversed but can be treated.

Many people on DiabetesTeam have had eye injections for these conditions. One said, “I have had two injections in my left eye, one more to go. Then the doctor will examine my eyes and decide if I need more treatment. I believe it is for diabetic retinopathy.” Another shared, “I had eye injections for DME, and I’m still recovering.”

2. There Are Two Main Types of Eye Injections for Diabetic Macular Edema

Your doctor may prescribe one of two different types of eye injections, as well as several other treatments.

The first of these is antivascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications. When your body tries to grow more blood vessels, it produces extra VEGF. If you can limit the amount of VEGF produced, your body may not experience the problems that can come when it tries to grow those extra vessels. Anti-VEGF drugs block this particular protein.

Your doctor may also choose to inject steroids in your eyes. These medications can help reduce swelling caused by inflammation. They may be useful if the blood vessels in your eyes seem like they’re under control but you’re still experiencing symptoms.

3. You May Experience Side Effects From Eye Injections

Most of the time, you shouldn’t have to worry about major complications after your eye injections. Your eyes may feel irritated, particularly in the hours directly after the injections. Occasionally, you may see a spot of blood on your eyeball where the injection occurred. These are normally not a problem and should go away within a week.

Contact your doctor right away if you experience a lot of floaters in your vision, have more trouble seeing than usual, have significant pain or discomfort in your eye, or become sensitive to light. These can be signs of complications that need to be addressed quickly.

In the long term, steroid injections in your eye may lead to glaucoma or cataracts. If you receive these injections, make sure you have regular eye exams to monitor your eyes.

4. Be Prepared for Your Doctor To Numb Your Eyes

When you go in for your eye injections, be prepared for your doctor to numb your eyeball. This helps ensure that you don’t experience pain during the procedure, but it might come as a surprise.

Numbing can take several forms. The method depends on your doctor’s preference, the location of your injection, and the type of injection. Your doctor may use eye drops or a gel that numbs the eye, or they may numb it with a smaller injection.

5. Treatment May Stabilize or Even Improve Your Vision

Your doctor should tell you what to expect from your eye injections. In general, you should expect your vision to stop getting worse, though it may also improve.

Anti-VEGF treatments, in particular, can improve vision. The vision stabilization or improvement may last for at least two years. It’s important to note that there aren’t many studies looking at how effective these treatments are over time. Thus, doctors and researchers may not be able to tell you exactly what to expect. Additionally, everyone responds to treatment differently. You may not be able to know what effect anti-VEGF injections will have until you try them.


“I have been getting injections for seven years now. I do believe that it has saved my vision.”

— A DiabetesTeam member

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Steroid injections may also stabilize or improve your vision. Some steroids seem to be more effective than others, although more research is needed to determine whether this is true and which ones are most effective.

6. You Should Be Able To Return to Your Routine Soon After Eye Injections

Most of the time, you can return to your usual routine whenever you feel comfortable doing so. Your doctor may caution you against certain activities in the day or days right after the injection. This warning is to protect the eye from contamination so you don’t get an infection.

If you feel like something is in your eye, use artificial tears or eye drops from your doctor. This irritation should not be severe enough to prevent you from participating in daily activities. If it is, contact your doctor right away.

7. You’ll Have To Follow Up With Your Doctor After Your Injections

Your doctor will want to see you again after your eye injections. This is to check your eyes, to talk about the results of the injections, and to see how your eyes have responded to them. Although the timing can vary between doctors, this appointment typically takes place four to six weeks after your injections.

It’s important to attend these follow-up eye exams, even if you feel like your eye health is good. Your doctor needs to document how the injections worked for you. They also need to use specialized equipment to examine your eyes and ensure that there are no issues that might not have noticeable symptoms or side effects.

8. You May Need Multiple Rounds of Injections

Your diabetes can continue to affect your eyes even after you have injections. Because of this, you may need to have eye injections again. Most people find that their body does well with these.

Your ophthalmologist will monitor your eyes using a variety of tests. You should also keep track of how well you’re seeing. If you begin to experience vision problems a few months or years after your injections, make an appointment to see your doctor right away. This will allow you to get the testing you need and to work with your doctor to find the treatment options that are right for you.

Some people have eye injections regularly, like one DiabetesTeam member who explained, “I get eye injections every four to six weeks to prevent blindness. I have been getting injections for seven years now. I do believe that it has saved my vision.”

Talk With Others Who Understand

DiabetesTeam is the social network for people with diabetes and their loved ones. On DiabetesTeam, more than 155,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with diabetes.

Are you considering eye injections for diabetes eye problems? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on June 14, 2024

    A DiabetesTeam Subscriber

    Vision on left eye is blurry. Have had an injection for eye stroke. Due for second shot next week. Vision is no better yet. I’m stressed.

    posted July 8
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    Paul B. Griggs, M.D. is certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. Learn more about him here.
    Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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