Hope may have arrived for diabetes-induced blindness. In a government-sponsored clinical trial, the drug Lucentis improved the eyesight of patients suffering from diabetic macular edema. Treatment of Lucentis is not approved for macular edema yet, but it is currently prescribed for macular degeneration.

As published by the American Journal of Ophthalmology, Lucentis, in combination with laser therapy, improved the sight of roughly half of the subjects treated. “The use of the drug Lucentis, for diabetic macular edema, has great implications for those individuals who are visually impaired,” says Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, Chief of Low Vision Programs at Lighthouse International. “The drug not only improves and retains visual acuity but preserves contrast sensitivity as well.”

Diabetic macular edema occurs when fluid from damaged blood vessels leaks into a part of the retina called the macula. Lucentis, which is made by Genentech, dries the blood vessels. “The treatments may help a person resume normal activities we all take for granted, such as reading the newspaper, traveling safely and independently, or retaining one’s position at work,” says Dr. Rosenthal. With approximately one million Americans suffering from diabetic macular edema, hope can’t come soon enough.