By Dr. Komal Motwani
Diabetic retinopathy, or diabetic eye disease, is a common complication of diabetes. According to research, diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of vision loss worldwide. Based on a recent study at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetic retinopathy was found to affect more than one-third of diabetic adults over the age of 40.
Diabetic retinopathy can be a strong predictor of other organ involvement in diabetes. However, diabetic eye disease can affect the eyes silently in the beginning, leaving no symptoms for the patients to pick up the disease early on. Hence, the diagnosis largely depends on following the screening recommendations. Patients often miss the screening, and can end up having irreversible damage to the eyes.
Since type 2 diabetes disease process begins earlier than the time of its diagnosis, the screening for complications of type 2 diabetes, including that for retinopathy, should begin at the same time as type 2 diabetes diagnosis. People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can wait until 3 to 5 years after the diagnosis to screen the eyes or other organ.
If diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), no eye screening is recommended. However, there is a high rate of retinopathy progression in a pregnant patient with existing diabetes. Eye screening for such patients should be done in first trimester up to first year after delivery.
The screening should be done by an eye specialist/ophthalmologist rather than a primary care provider, since it needs special equipment and training to diagnose. The diabetic eye exam should be done annually, unless the frequency is changed by the ophthalmologist.
The symptoms for diabetic retinopathy can vary, including but not limited to blurry vision, spots or floaters, color impairment or vision loss. Once symptoms develop, it is imperative to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to save vision. The treatment can vary, from monitoring to medicines/injections, laser and surgery.
Prevention of diabetic retinopathy essentially depends on good control of diabetes early on, as well as well controlled blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular follow up with ophthalmologist, even with well controlled blood sugars, will prevent any delay in diagnosis and allow timely management.
CALL 1-844-735-8864 for assistance with managing your diabetes with the help of a SeHealth primary care provider who can refer to an endocrinologist or diabetes educator if needed.