PORTLAND, Ore. – The Oregon Optometric Physicians Association is urging people to have their eyesight checked as part of Diabetes Awareness Month, since six million people in the U.S. have diabetes and don’t realize it. Having a dilated eye exam allows optometric physicians to look inside the retina and potentially find changes in the eye that lead to the diagnosis of diabetes. This is the only way to see inside to the body’s blood vessels without surgery, which makes it a convenient way to check on vascular diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
“If you can discover and treat diabetes early, you greatly increase the chance of saving your sight,” said Dr. Tammie Krisciunas, Portland optometric physician. “That’s why we recommend people get their eyes checked annually, especially if they think they might have diabetes. And if you already know you have the disease, be sure to tell your optometric physician. He or she can check the status of your diabetes through a dilated eye exam and update your primary care physician, who may want to change your course of treatment.”
Dr. Krisciunas sees many patients with diabetes. In one case, a woman was experiencing blurry vision and came in for new glasses. Dr. Krisciunas checked her vision and noticed her retina was covered with large hemorrhages. The patient then admitted she had diabetes but was not being treated. Dr. Krisciunas immediately referred her for medical treatment. The patient underwent retinal surgery that same day, began aggressively treating her diabetes, and came back one year later to thank Dr. Kriscuinas for saving her life.
“It’s gratifying to have helped someone seek treatment who might otherwise have gone undiagnosed,” said Kriscuinas.
18 million people in the United States have diabetes and are consequently at risk of developing diabetic eye disease, the leading cause of blindness among people 20-75 years of age. Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that can develop as a result of diabetes, namely cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Among the millions of people diagnosed with diabetes, one-third have not had a dilated eye exam in the past year to check for these problems. It’s recommended that people with diabetes have their vision checked immediately after being diagnosed and every year thereafter. Annual eye exams for people with diabetes are typically covered by most medical insurance companies, including Medicare.
You should see your optometric physician if:
The Oregon Optometric Physicians Association recommends people have a yearly vision exam, because diabetes often has no visible symptoms and can go undetected for years, causing harm to not only your eyes, but to your nerves, kidneys, heart and feet as well.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, the hormone that converts sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. You are at risk for diabetes as you get older, gain too much weight, or if you do not stay active. Diabetes is more common in African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian Americans. Your chances for developing the disease rise if you have high blood pressure, have a family history of the disease, develop diabetes during pregnancy or deliver a baby weighing more than nine pounds. Many people with diabetes don’t notice any symptoms. However, you should be checked for it if you fit into any of the categories above or find yourself being very thirsty, urinating often, losing weight without trying or experiencing vision problems. Leaving your diabetes untreated can lead to serious problems with your eyes, heart, kidneys, nerves and feet, and can even be fatal. For more information on diabetes, contact the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.
About the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association
The Oregon Optometric Physicians Association is a statewide organization comprised of doctors of optometry, college of optometry faculty, optometric students and industry-related associates. We advocate to advance the quality, availability and accessibility of eye, vision and related health care. We also work to represent the profession of optometry, to enhance and promote the independent and ethical decision making of its members, and to assist optometric physicians in practicing the highest standards of patient care. Based in Milwaukie, Oregon, the OOPA has 380 members. For more information, visit www.oregonoptometry.org.