See the signs of diabetic retinopathy

Diabetes cases are growing rapidly across the world. In the United States alone, more than 34 million people have diabetes, and a significant percentage of people in the U.S. may have elevated blood sugars without realizing it. Because having diabetes increases the risk of complications such as heart disease, eye disease and kidney disease—it is important for people with diabetes to meet regularly with health care providers.

Because of diabetic retinopathy, one of the routine screening tests recommended for diabetes patients is a yearly eye exam.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that results in damage to the blood vessels that supply the light-sensing area at the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and approximately 40% of people with diabetes may have a degree of diabetic retinopathy. The good news is that complications from diabetic retinopathy are largely preventable with effective management of blood sugars and early eye screening and treatment.

Prolonged uncontrolled (elevated) blood sugars are the biggest risk factor for the development of diabetic retinopathy. Studies have shown that controlling blood sugars is effective in preventing diabetic retinopathy. Early identification and treatment of diabetic retinopathy can help preserve vision and prevent blindness. While people with advanced diabetic retinopathy may have symptoms like blurry vision, floating spots in vision, and/or dark areas of vision—many people with early diabetic retinopathy have no symptoms. It’s why it’s important for people with diabetes to undergo routine eye exams—even if they have no vision-related symptoms.

Ophthalmologists (eye doctors) will often use eye drops that help to dilate (widen) the pupil for better inspection of the retina.

At University of Utah Health Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center, with assistance from the Larry H. Miller Driving out Diabetes Initiative, we have made eye exams easier for patients. Our center contains a state-of-the-art camera that captures detailed photos of the retina without requiring dilation.

After their diabetes provider visit, patients are offered the option of having retinal photos taken if they haven’t had an eye exam in the last 12 months—saving a separate visit to the Ophthalmologist. A retinal specialist at the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center evaluates the photos—results and follow up recommendations are then relayed to patients.

We’ve been able to provide this convenient service for nearly 300 patients over the last several years and would like to help you, too!

Consider scheduling a diabetes visit with us by calling 801-581-7761 or contacting Julie Neuburger at julie.neuberger@hsc.utah.edu to learn more about scheduling an eye exam.