July 26, 2016

Have You Been Checked for Diabetic Retinopathy?

Maybe I have been fortunate because at three months after diagnosis, I had an eye examination to establish a baseline for the condition of my eyes. Even though I had been diagnosed late, I had no indication of diabetic retinopathy. Because of my age, I have had an eye examination at least once a year since and when the cataracts started, it has been every six months.

I have now completed the cataract surgeries and I am still wearing glasses, but much less strong a prescription. I will be checked again in November because of other problems, which were caused by torn retina repairs in both eyes, but I still feel very fortunate with my eyesight.

The Australian study is somewhat of a disappointment as they state that general practitioners are waiting about three years before referring patients to have an eye examination done. If diabetes management is poor, a lot of damage can be done in three years. If diabetes management is good, then seldom will there be any damage, but I would not like to be in that situation.

An average delay of 3.1 years for an initial diabetes eye exam was found in a recent Australian study. The findings were published online in a letter to the editor in Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology.

Brigitte M. Papa, MD, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and colleagues examined current general practitioner (GP) management practices for diabetic retinopathy screening in a cross-sectional survey of 598 GPs in Victoria. The survey comprised 12 questions relating to diabetic retinopathy screening. Data were included from 198 responses to the survey, of which 175 were complete.

Overall, 53% of GPs reported that they referred newly diagnosed individuals for an eye check at the time of diagnosis; 23% referred patients at 1 year or more after initial diagnosis.

Ninety-seven percent of GPs reported referring patients with type 2 diabetes for diabetic retinopathy screening at least biennially. However, only 55% and 39% of GPs verified patient uptake of the first eye referral and confirmed receipt of a report from the eye health professional following the first eye assessment, respectively.

This study signals the need for better systems of care to support diabetic retinopathy screening and, ultimately, improve long-term visual outcomes for persons with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association recommends an eye checkup every second year and this may be okay for some individuals, but people with diabetes should follow the directions of their eye care professional.

Several of our members are also now being considered for cataract surgery and it is surprising how many of the newer members have never followed through in having there eyes checked. A.J was really shocked as he remembers the endocrinologist telling him to have an eye checkup and a teeth checkup and the two of us talking about this on the way home.

A.J said he did not want a meeting this early, but felt that the first meeting in September should cover this topic and other things that needed to be done. We have covered taking care of our feet, but not the other points that need to be done after diagnosis. I agreed and said we needed to talk to Tim.

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