Patients with diabetes need to be examined at least annually. The reason is to be on the look out for the development of diabetic retinopathy. That’s the disease that diabetes causes in the eye; it affects the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can cause anything from blurry vision to blindness depending on the severity of the disease.
Researchers compared the prevalence of the disease in different racial/ethnic groups. The disease was noted to increase from the original study period of 1988-1994 to the more recent time period 2005-2006. Non-hispanic blacks had the highest prevalence.
In all groups, the prevalence of the disease now approaches about 30% of all diabetics. The most critical risk factor is the duration of the disease, that is, the number of years a patient is diabetic. Other risk factors for the development of diabetic retinopathy included male gender, type of sugar control (e.g. insulin vs. diet), blood pressure and hemoglobin A1C.
While measurement of the hemoglobin A1C reflects overall sugar control, I need to stress that the number of years you are diabetic is the highest risk. Sugar controls helps, but it does not prevent the disease. Regular examination is the best way to prevent vision loss. We I docs to a better job at preventing vision loss versus regaining lost sight.
Randall V. Wong, M.D.