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Free diabetic retinopathy screening offered

by Carolyn Cavanaugh, R.N.
Patient Educator, Storm Eye Institute
In an effort to help preserve vision in the  community, the Storm Eye Institute is offering a free screening for people with diabetes who have not received  an eye exam in the last year. The screening for diabetic retinopathy will be provided on Nov. 14 by appointment. Appointments can be made through Health Connections at 792-1414.
The high rate of diabetes in America, particularly in South Carolina, raises the concern for an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy, which can render a person blind. About 24 million Americans have diabetes, and that number is increasing. Unfortunately, one third of this population is unaware that they have the disease. Of the known people with diabetes, only about one- half receives dilated eye exams and patient education.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye complication of diabetes and is responsible for 8,000 new cases of blindness each year. It is a leading cause of blindness among working class adults in the United States. Yet studies have shown blindness can be prevented in 90 percent of the cases by early detection and early treatment, including interventional measures such as blood sugar control, blood pressure monitoring, reduced cholesterol in the diet, exercise, and medications.
The Diabetes Control and Complication Trials and the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study have shown that strict blood sugar and blood pressure control can also slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
The retina is the  inner back layer of the eye and contains light-sensing tissue. We need a healthy retina in order to have good vision. In diabetic retinopathy, high blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels in the retina. Often there are no symptoms in early stages of diabetic retinopathy, and the person is unaware that damage is occurring.
Diabetic retinopathy can be detected with a dilated eye exam. That’s why it is important that persons with diabetes have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
The diabetic retinopathy can then be detected and  it can be treated early rather than waiting until vision has already been lost. Treatments include laser photocoagulation when there is clinically-significant diabetic macular edema or proliferative retinopathy. Also, surgery called vitrectomy, can be performed to repair some of the more serious damage and retinal complications. Some injectable medications may also be used in certain instances.
We want to help people keep their eyes healthy. This can be accomplished with an increased awareness in our community about the necessity of dilated eye exams at least once a year for people with diabetes. The key to saving sight is early detection and early treatment when needed, along with control of blood sugar and blood pressure.
If you have diabetes, be sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year, or sooner if directed by your eye doctor.
To make an appointment for the free diabetic retinopathy screening at MUSC Storm Eye Institute, call Health Connection at 792-1414.


Nov. 7, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.