Untreated diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness. You know that, but do your patients? Research suggests that less than half of Americans living with diabetes are aware of this sight-stealing risk.


An estimated one in three people with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy. Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the early stage of the disease, is identified by deposits forming in the retina. There are no physical symptoms. By the time a patient experiences changes in vision they may have proliferative diabetic retinopathy. An annual, dilated eye exam can detect vision problems before your patient notices anything is wrong. In fact, the American Optometric Association recommends that everyone with diabetes have a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year. This issue’s Docs Speak Out survey on page 32 discusses how optometrists handle patients who refuse dilation. The good news is that many respondents said that patients agreed to dilation (or rescheduled for a better day) after learning of its importance in detecting disease.

Something else to emphasize: early detection and treatment of the disease can reduce risk of blindness by 95%, according to the National Institutes of Health. Stereoscopic fundus photography and/or dilated biomicrosopy with OCT combined with treatments such as Anti-VEGF drugs, steroids and laser surgery will go a long way to save someone’s sight.

Also, if you practice in remote areas or on mission trips, a cross-sectional study recently published in JAMA Ophthalmology found the sectors approach showed accuracy in the detection of clinically significant macular edema. Researchers say this approach may be considered when the use of OCT is not feasible.

Early detection and treatment can limit the potential for significant vision loss from diabetic retinopathy””you have an arsenal of tools at your disposal. Again, you know that. Make sure your patients do too!

Joanne Van Zuidam | Editor-In-Chief


Leave A Reply