Eyes on the Prize: Early Detection and Management of Diabetes

By examining the cornea, the retina, and the blood flow through the vessels in, around, and behind the eye, optometrists can detect signs of numerous health conditions before they manifest themselves elsewhere in the body.

| Jul 31, 2008

When does a visit to the eye doctor mean more than just a new pair of glasses and a change in prescription? When it can change—or even save—your life.

Most people associate routine diabetic healthcare with an endocrinologist and a primary care physician, but your optometrist has the upper hand when it comes to detecting diabetes and its numerous complications at the earliest stages.

Eye Doctors See It First

What gives eye doctors the advantage? The eyes are the only places in the body where an unobstructed, noninvasive view of blood vessels is possible. By examining the cornea, the retina, and the blood flow through the vessels in, around, and behind the eye, optometrists can detect signs of numerous health conditions before they manifest themselves elsewhere in the body. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, among others, all cause notable changes in the eye, including vessel leakage, retinal swelling, fatty deposits on the retina, and other changes that can be identified during a thorough eye examination by a trained eye doctor.

For this reason, comprehensive eye examinations by qualified service providers such as Vision Service Plan (VSP) in Rancho Cordova, California, are more than just a basic test to see if you need glasses. They are critical in the early detection and ongoing management of diabetes. Not only do these exams give eye doctors a first glimpse of potential, long-term health problems, but they also help optometrists spot new cases of diabetes, pre-diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, and high blood sugar levels in patients who come in anticipating a routine or annual eye examination. Following the initial diagnosis, VSP doctors refer these patients to their primary care physicians and/or endocrinologists for the necessary follow-up and preventive care.

“Early detection of diabetes has several benefits,” says Dr. Ken Johnson, a VSP-trained, private practice Doctor of Optometry in Phoenix, Arizona. “If the diabetes is recognized sooner, it can be treated sooner. This leads to a longer life, a better quality of life, and lower medical-related costs over the life span of the patient.”

Inexplicable Changes in Vision

Dr. Johnson should know. He is keenly aware of the value of comprehensive eye examinations in the detection and treatment of diabetes. A diabetic for over 20 years, he was initially diagnosed through an eye examination when he began experiencing inexplicable changes in his vision. “Most patients we diagnose come to us because of a sudden change in vision. Maybe their vision is blurry, and they have never worn glasses, and they are concerned. We are often the first doctor they see. We end up being the ones who determine they have diabetes and refer them to other medical experts for follow-up treatment.”

Don’t be misled into thinking that comprehensive eye examinations are used only for diagnostic purposes, however. The effects of diabetes damage various parts of the body, and this damage is evident in changes to the blood vessels in your eyes before other complications can be detected by a doctor.

Research by The National Eye Institute estimates that 4.1 million people over the age of 40 currently suffer the effects of diabetic retinopathy, and it projects that number to be around 7.2 million people by the year 2020. With annual comprehensive eye examinations, however, 90 percent of all diabetes-related blindness can be prevented.

New device gives advance notice

As an adjunct to the traditional optometrist-administered eye exams, a device recently created by two scientists at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center holds great promise in giving even more advance notice of diabetes and related vision complications. The screening device takes a specialized photograph of the eye that reveals metabolic stress and tissue damage, two precursors to diabetes. The device measures specific characteristics of retinal tissue to determine the extent of the damage and potential eye disease. Not only is the retinal imaging available to diagnose diabetes, but it also has the potential to monitor the severity of retinopathy in diabetic patients.

The importance of comprehensive eye exams in the early detection and ongoing management of diabetes cannot be overstated. It is no longer enough to simply know that you have diabetes. You need to understand how it affects your entire body and impacts your overall health. “Everybody has to get on the same page when it comes to treating the person with diabetes,” says Dr. Johnson. “From the eye doctor, the dentist, the podiatrist, and the family doctor to the endocrinologist, we all have to know what’s going on with the patient, and the patient needs to understand the ramifications of the disease.” Getting a head start on diabetes through a yearly comprehensive eye examination can help reduce diabetes-related damage to the body and prevent a variety of accompanying problems, helping diabetics lead happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives in control of their disease.

Equal Access to Eye Care for Everyone

One source of eye care is VSP Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit managed vision care company in the United States, covering 55 million members, 30,000 clients, and a network of 25,000 doctors. Since 1997, VSP has donated nearly $100 million to provide 470,000 low-income, uninsured children with free eye exams and glasses. VSP promotes the importance of annual eye exams for maintaining eye health and overall wellness through relationships with the American Diabetes Association, Prevent Blindness America, and the Center for Health Transformation.

The company stresses the significance of preventive examinations and focuses on early detection and ongoing management through their private practice doctors. Everything from eye muscle coordination and peripheral vision to refraction and glaucoma testing are part of the standard examination. VSP network doctors are highly trained in recognizing early signs of diabetes and pre-diabetes and are certified by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving healthcare quality. In addition, VSP eye doctors are therapeutically certified to use pharmaceutical agents in their examinations, which sets a higher standard for care in the VSP network.

Sources:

Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Eye Care (Retinopathy), Type 1 Issues, Type 2 Issues


Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter

Latest
Popular
Top Rated
Print | Email | Share | Comments (7)

You May Also Be Interested In...


Comments

Posted by ndocroth on 1 August 2008

Great start! It is so important, and quite easily possible, to detect a risk of diabetes early. Being that diabetes is a metabolic disease, it is largely avoidable.

Eye problems are but one indicator. Research links over 50 health conditions with a future risk of developing diabetes. The earlier you become aware, the sooner you can change your lifestyle and start nurishing your body in a proper fashion. Lifstyle and diet are still your best bet when it comes to avoiding, controlling, and maybe even reversing blood sugar problems.

Rivkah Roth author of forthcoming "At Risk? Avoid Diabetes by Recognizing Early Risks - A Natural Medicine View" and the DIABETES-Series Little Books.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 August 2008

Very good article...informative.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 August 2008

Thank you for this informative article. I have had diabetes for years and no one has talked to me too much about my eyes.

Posted by Type1forlife on 5 August 2008

I was glad to see that the word is being spread about the importance of eye care and how it relates to diabetes. Thanks for passing on this information to diabetics and potential diabetics because this is essential to early detection of the disease process.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 August 2008

After reading this article, I'm making an eye appointment today. Very informative, thank you.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 August 2008

Very informative and eye-opening to say the least. It definitely shows the importance of detecting diabetes early on and how that can simply be done through an eye exam.

Posted by Anonymous on 8 August 2008

I AM A DIABETIC TYPE 1 FOR 43 YEARS, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF EARLY ON, WHICH I HAVE DONE SINCE I WAS 9. I AM 52 NOW AND DIABETIC RETINOPATHY HAS AFFECTED MY RIGHT EYE, THEY HAVE COME A LONG WAY IN BEING ABLE TO TREAT THIS EYE PROBLEM AND I AM VERY ENCOURAGED BY THE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR EYE DR.S NOW. MY RETINA DR. SAID TO ME WHEN HE SAW MY BLOOD IN MY EYE SAID, IT WAS KNOWING YOU DID, BUT THAT THE EYE AGES AND THIS WILL HAPPEN. I NEVER DREAMED THIS WOULD HAPPEN TO ME, BUT YOU KNOW I TOOK CARE OF MYSELF ALL THESE YEARS AND THESE THINGS WILL HAPPEN, AND YOU WILL OVER COME, KEEP A POSITIVE MIND FRAME AND CONTINUE TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF. I HAVE BEEN WATCHED BY EYE DR.
EVERY YEAR FOR 43 YEARS AND THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I HAVE HAD TROUBLE. THIS IS A VERY GOOD ARTICLE AND PEOPLE NEED TO BE INFORMED. DON'T BE AFRAID, JUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
GILBERT, AZ


Add your comments about this article below. You can add comments as a registered user or anonymously. If you choose to post anonymously your comments will be sent to our moderator for approval before they appear on this page. If you choose to post as a registered user your comments will appear instantly.

When voicing your views via the comment feature, please respect the Diabetes Health community by refraining from comments that could be considered offensive to other people. Diabetes Health reserves the right to remove comments when necessary to maintain the cordial voice of the diabetes community.

For your privacy and protection, we ask that you do not include personal details such as address or telephone number in any comments posted.

Don't have your Diabetes Health Username? Register now and add your comments to all our content.

Have Your Say...


Username: Password:
Comment:
©1991-2014 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.