Diabetes is a continually growing problem affecting more and more Americans. The Vision Health Initiative (VHI) Report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the rate of Americans aged 40 years and older with vision issues associated with diabetes will triple from 2005 to 2050. With this increase, eye care professionals run a higher risk of encountering patients who knowingly or unknowingly have diabetes and may suffer from eye health issues as a result.
Optometry Times (OT) posted an article that urges eye care professionals not to be misled by seemingly insignificant signs of visual issues in patients with diabetes. It could be more serious than it looks at first glance.
Identifying Patients with Diabetes
Retinal exams are helpful tools in finding early signs of eye health deterioration common in patients with diabetes. A simple dilated eye exam can also help expose areas of concern. Dilated fundus exams help to show more serious eye health changes like intraretinal hemorrhages. The OT article suggests that fluorescein angiography can give you a deeper look.
In the case study referred to in the OT article, the patient was virtually symptom-free. However, fluorescein angiography revealed “a more concerning picture with presence of capillary nonperfusion and neovascularization everywhere (NVE),” which identified the patient as having vision-threatening concerns.
Patient Care: Next Steps
There are many different paths doctors can suggest after identifying patients with diabetes. First and foremost, recommend they see an endocrinologist (if they don’t already) or their primary care physician for proper education. Then, schedule a follow-up appointment (3 months if their vision is in danger; 1 year if they are in the early signs). Third, refer them to a retinal specialist. Regardless of how damaged their eyes are, it’s not if but when patients with diabetes will develop eye health issues.
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