Various treatments are available to stop diabetic retinopathy from worsening. However, this treatment may be costly if a person does not have health insurance.

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that causes swelling in the retina, resulting in blurred or clouded vision. It is the most common cause of blindness in individuals with diabetes, affecting 1 in 3 people over the age of 40 years with the condition.

The cost of treatment depends on the type of treatment a person has and whether or not health insurance covers it.

Read on to learn more about treatment costs, insurance coverage, the economic effect on individuals, and financial support.

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There are various types of treatments for diabetic retinopathy, and a doctor will recommend the best option for a person.

While treatment does not cure diabetic retinopathy, it can stop the condition from worsening.

Below, we summarize these treatment options and offer an approximate idea of the costs. It is important to note that these figures may be significantly lower with insurance.


This involves an injection of anti–vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs directly into the affected eye. It may discourage atypical blood vessel development and slow the effects of diabetic retinopathy.

There are two different kinds of anti-VEGF drugs that a person may receive: aflibercept and ranibizumab.

One branded form of aflibercept, Eylea, may cost approximately $1,957 for 40 milligrams (mg)/milliliter (mL). Lucentis, a branded form of ranibizumab, costs approximately $1,241 for 6 mg/mL or $2,062 for 10 mg/mL.


In some cases, a person may receive a sustained release implant into the eye. Healthcare professionals will administer this via injection, and the implant releases small amounts of medication over time. A person will usually receive this when they also have diabetic macular edema.

The brand name for this implant is Ozurdex, and the cost is approximately $1,455 for one implant.


Eye laser treatment, which doctors call photocoagulation, may help reduce swelling in the retina. The lasers create small burns in the retina to stop leaky blood vessels, which reduces excess fluid and swelling.

People having laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy may need to have one to three sessions before noticing any benefits.

There is very limited information available from credible sources to suggest how much laser treatment costs. However, older research from 2011 states laser treatment costs around $1,326 for three visits.


One type of surgery, called a vitrectomy, may help some individuals with diabetic retinopathy as a supplementary treatment to retina surgery.

This can help diabetic retinopathy involving a tractional retinal detachment, but when a person cannot see the retina well enough to treat it because there is blood in the vitreous. The vitreous is the gel-like substance in the retina that the surgeon removes in a vitrectomy.

According to the Vision Center, a vitrectomy costs $8,000–14,000. The cost depends on health insurance and whether a person requires hospitalization after the procedure.

As diabetic retinopathy is medically necessary, a person’s health insurance usually covers it. However, each health insurance plan differs, so individuals should check this with their insurance providers.

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), a person with diabetic retinopathy may need comprehensive dilated eye exams every 2–4 months.

Additionally, the Medicare website states that a person with diabetes should receive their annual dilated diabetic eye exam yearly. The organization recommends undergoing one with or without symptoms and considers it a preventive measure. Medical experts recommend undergoing the exam whether people have been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy in the past or not.

However, if they have diabetic retinopathy that needs treatment, that should treatment should also fall under insurance coverage and is separate from this preventive exam. However, copays and deductibles likely still apply.

According to 2019 research, treatment for diabetic eye disease management costs individuals $600–1,000 per year. However, this cost will vary depending on a person’s treatment and insurance coverage.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK) states that individuals with diabetes may spend an average of $16,752 on medical bills annually.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that vision loss and blindness cost an average of $16,838 per individual in the United States annually.

It is important to note that these figures represent the average total cost for a person with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association supports the Patient Advocate Foundation’s diabetes assistance co-pay program, Co-Pay Relief. The Foundation offers grants to qualifying individuals to help them with medical costs.

This can cover medical visits, lab tests, medications, treatments, and other costs in diabetes disease management.

Additionally, the NIDDK provides a list of organizations that can provide financial support for people with diabetes. Some of these include:

The NIDDK also recommends that individuals discuss costs with their doctor, as there may be a cheaper treatment alternative.

There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy. However, a person can receive treatment to stop symptoms from worsening. Treatment options include injections, implants, laser treatment, and surgery. However, these treatments can be costly.

Insurance will usually cover some or all of these treatment costs. Some organizations offer financial support to individuals who need it.