Despite all of the technology that we have today, most people, including doctors, do not realize that sugar control does not prevent diabetic retinopathy. While sugar may affect the severity of diabetic retinopathy, the number of years that one is diabetic is the single most predictive variable. Over the years, I have found it very difficult to get this message to the primary care physicians; family docs, internists and pediatricians. On average, a patient develops signs of retinopathy after 7 years of the diagnosis of diabetes.
More importantly, it is imperative that every diabetic be seen by an eye doctor at least one a year. The doctor, ophthalmologist or optometrist, should take the time to dilate your eyes; looking for signs of diabetic retinopathy. Once diabetic retinopathy has been noted, referral to a retinal specialist is appropriate.
Diabetic patients can NOT tell if they are developing retinopathy. To state another way, vision does not correlate with presence or absence of the disease. Don’t wait until you can not see before going to the eye doctor! Go while you have excellent vision. We are better at preventing vision loss from diabetes than we are at reclaiming lost vision.
One last item. I tell every diabetic to expect to get the retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is not a reflection of poor sugar control. It happens to almost 90% of diabetics; regardless of sugar control.
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist