|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
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
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
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