BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Diabetic macular edema or DME is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes, but, a new treatment is improving the outcome for patients. Many patients on the Coast are finding that a new implant procedure makes treatment easier and more helpful in fighting vision loss.
Fifty-two-year-old Melissa Cospelich from Biloxi is living a more independent life again; thanks to the treatment that has helped her overcome debilitating vision loss.
"It's almost like you're in a shower and your eyes fog over. That's basically where I was. My vision was totally gone. The fog was really thick."
Those are trademark symptoms of DME. Retinal Specialist, Dr. Frere Gremillion, MD, says the condition is caused by constantly elevated blood sugar levels.
"And what happens is vessels lose their support cells around them, so fluid just leaks out of the vessel and causes fluid buildup which affects the vision."
Dr. Gremillion says it's very common, and is the leading cause of blindness among diabetics.
"Preventive maintenance is the best way to control it. Don't get it to begin with. "
But if you do get it treatment is critical.
"Without treatment, you will likely end up legally blind," said Dr. Gremillion.
Melissa saw improvements with a standard regimen of steroid injections. But those injections into the eye had to be repeated frequently; every four to six weeks.
The new treatment, called Iluvien, is a tiny implant, smaller than a grain of rice.
"This new agent is basically a sustained release steroid shot in the eye, which slowly releases steroid particles."
The time release implant decreases the frequency of injections from every two months to every six or seven months; maybe longer.
Dr. Gremillion said, "As it decreases the swelling, you do see a visual improvement."
As for Melissa, the improvement has led to dramatic changes in her life. Now she's able to take care of herself, for the most part, and enjoy the simple things most people take for granted.
"Everything looks brighter and clearer. I can watch and make out you and Dave Elliott on the news and see faces and features. Before, I could not."
Melissa says it takes a few weeks to start seeing the most dramatic improvements.