Advanced Technology Helps Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy
About 35 percent of people with diabetes have signs of diabetic retinopathy—a common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of adult blindness. When detected and treated early, the risk of severe vision loss can be reduced by 90 percent.
The problem is about half of at-risk patients do not receive a regular eye screening, according to Dr. Christian Hermansen, Regional Medical Director and family medicine physician, Lancaster General Health Physicians.
“There are so many recommendations for diabetic patients–get your eyes checked, get your feet checked, get your flu shot, maintain your medications, check your blood sugar–and for many, getting to the eye doctor takes a lower priority,” explained Dr. Hermansen.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
“In a healthy eyes, small blood vessels deliver nutrients and oxygen to the retina which keeps it healthy,” said Dr. Hermansen. “This is important because the retina sends signals to the brain that become the images we see.”
For people with diabetes, excess sugar in the blood can damage those delicate blood vessels even if their diabetes is well controlled with diet or medication.
Unfortunately, by the time people start noticing symptoms of diabetic retinopathy like blurred vision, difficulty seeing colors, floaters, and on occasion, sudden and complete loss of vision, the disease is often well advanced.
This is why early detection is so important.
Incorporating Screening into Primary Care Office Visits
At Lancaster General Health, patients with diabetes can be screened at their primary-care provider’s office using TeleRetina technology. Providers use a hand-held camera to capture an image of the back of the eye. The test takes about five minutes, is easy and painless, and does not require drops to dilate the eyes. Using special software, the images are sent to an ophthalmologist for review.
If you do have diabetic retinopathy, treatment can help the condition from getting worse. Options include better blood sugar control, medication, laser treatment, and surgery.
Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Prevented?
“TeleRetina does not take the place of a complete eye exam, said Dr. Hermansen. “It only looks for diseases that affect the retina. But it may save your sight. All people with diabetes should get an annual eye exam by an ophthalmologist.”
In addition, there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of damaging the small blood vessels in the eye that that can lead to diabetic retinopathy:
- Keep blood sugar and blood pressure levels within a target range
- If you smoke, quit
Learn more about diabetic retinopathy and how TeleRetina technology available at LG Health Physicians primary care practices can help identify the condition before it causes vision damage.