Diabetes is now the leading cause of new onset blindness in adults in the US. Diabetic retinopathy is the condition where damage is caused to the retina (back part of the eye) by high blood sugar over extended periods of time. A recent study, conducted by the CDC, found almost one-third of adults over age 40 years with diabetes were affected by retinopathy. The early stages of diabetic retinopathy typical occur without symptoms, and can only be detected with a dilated eye exam by an eye doctor or with retinal photography. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to permanent blindness. However, there is hope. Early identification of this problem can allow effective treatment before it causes vision loss, and working with your primary care provider to help keep blood sugar and blood pressure under good control can lower your risk of complications like retinopathy as well as decrease progression from early stages to more advanced vision-threatening stages of this disease. A screening eye exam to check for retinopathy is recommended annually in adults with diabetes, and we are making every effort to help enable our patients to access screening by offering the option of retinal photographs in our office. Retinal photography only takes a few minutes, and the images are reviewed by board-certified ophthalmologists. If you have diabetes, regular follow-up visits with your primary care provider are an important way to help you stay up to date with screenings and prevent diabetes-related conditions from getting in the way of living your best life.
By Matthew Adler, MD