Yearly Exams to Check for Diabetic Retinopathy

August 04, 2019

Do you have diabetes? Have you ever?  Diabetes doesn’t just affect how you plan your meals and snacks. Diabetes can affect parts of your body – including your vision.

One of several eye diseases that those with diabetes need to know about is diabetic retinopathy. 

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults under 75. In the United States, this is a growing problem as the number of individuals with diabetes increases, and the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, estimate that from 2010 to 2050, the number of Americans with diabetic retinopathy is expected to nearly double, from 7.7 million to 14.6 million.

Diabetic retinopathy, or DR, occurs when diabetes affects the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. The blood vessels will leak and distort vision. If it is not found and treated early, diabetic retinopathy can cause permanent vision loss - and it usually affects both eyes!

In the early stages of DR, someone may not notice any symptoms or changes to his or her eyesight. The disease often progresses unnoticed until it affects vision. But it is important to catch DR early because with current therapies over 90 percent of vision loss is preventable.

That is why Penn Highlands Healthcare is making it easier for those with diabetes to be screened once a year. “It’s important to have regular eye exams to prevent eye damage,” Megan Bussard, PharmD, Director of Value Based Healthcare Operations, Penn Highlands Healthcare, said. “If you have not had an eye exam in the past year, we can help.”

“Penn Highlands is now offering appointments for DR screening in the convenience of the Penn Highlands Community Pharmacy located on South Main Street in DuBois in the DuBois Community Medical Building,” she said. 

The screenings are by appointment and are covered by Medicare and most insurances. Call 814-375-6513 for an appointment or more information.

“As medical providers, we educate our patients on the importance of preventive care, but screenings with other medical professionals can become very difficult for patients,” Bussard said. 

“With only 50 percent of the diabetic population within Penn Highlands receiving regular eye care, we want to raise the bar and offer convenient access for our patients to receive appropriate and much-needed care.”

Last year, Penn Highlands also acquired three special cameras for eye testing that are shared in physician offices to help provide convenience for patients, too. The images captured on our cameras are uploaded to the Penn Highlands Ophthalmology group for readings.  

Who should be interested in these tests?  A recent CDC study found that the prevalence of DR was high, affecting one-third of adults over the age of 40 years with diabetes. 

Studies also find that the following factors are associated with those who are diagnosed with DR:
• Being male; 
• Having higher A1c levels (A1c tests show the average level of blood sugar over 2-3 months); 
• Having diabetes for a long time;
• Insulin use;
• Having high cholesterol levels;
• Having high blood pressure.

Symptoms that could indicate that the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage include:
•Blurry vision;
•Spots that “float” in your vision;
•Halos around lights;
•Loss of central vision;
•Loss of color vision.
If you already have symptoms that show the disease has progressed, make an appointment immediately with an eye specialist, such as the eye surgeons at Penn Highlands Ophthalmology, at 814-371-2390 or 814-768-8888.