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Diabetic Retinopathy: A Leading Cause of Blindness

Diabetes is the primary causal agent of vision loss among adults aged 20-74 years. In just the last four years, over four million men and women in North America afflicted with diabetes were tested positive for diabetes related blindness. Of this group, seventy thousand suffered from severe diabetic retinopathy, which can result in untreatable vision loss.

While not every individual is at risk of diabetes related vision loss, it is important to know the relation between the disease and blindness.

Firstly, adults diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk. Anyone in this category should ensure that they have an eye exam once a year. The longer the disease remains unmonitored, the stronger the danger of diabetes caused vision loss. Timely treatment is necessary to halting further loss.

Expectant mothers that have been diagnosed with pregnancy-related diabetes have a higher likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy. It is crucial to have a comprehensive dilated eye examination after diagnosis as well.

Maybe you are wondering, why all the panic? Wouldn’t there be symptoms of sight deterioration?

Well the answer surprisingly is no. There are several forms of diabetic retinopathy, and only those which are in the acute stages are noticeable. Progressive diabetes can have no signs. Macular edema is another diabetes caused disease which results in extreme sight loss. Both afflictions can appear without any obvious signs. This is why early recognition is the key to stopping any irreparable damage.

A thorough evaluation will look for precursors of diabetic retinopathy. There are multiple stages to this exam which will expose the typical signs, such as a swelling of the retina, the existence of fatty deposits on the retina, leaky blood vessels, and damaged nerve tissue. What is involved in a complete eye test?

The eye doctor will perform a visual acuity exam by means of an eye chart that is used to assess how accurately you see at various distances. This is identical to the visual acuity exams given by your optometrist, to see if you require glasses.

During a dilated eye exam, the optometrist puts drops in your eyes to amplify the size of your pupils. Though not a particularly beloved test by the squeamish, it can stop deterioration in your vision in subsequent years. This procedure makes it feasible to monitor a larger part of the interior portion of your eyes to look for specific clues that show the presence of diabetic retinopathy. The short discomfort may save your eye sight.

Regularly monitor your health. Even a little hesitation might cause severe damage. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is necessary to book an eye exam with your optometrist once a year without fail.

Thank you for trusting your eyecare with us over the years.  The Foresight Eyecare team follows the government mandate to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  After December 2020 announcements made by the Alberta Government, our clinic is following the revised Infection Prevention and Control policy by the Alberta College of Optometrists.

Patients interested in obtaining eye exam services or eye care products can be seen by appointment only.  Please call ahead, and staff will arrange an appointment time and ask COVID-19 screening questions.  If you have any symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose or shortness of breath, we ask that you call or e-mail us and do not attend the clinic for your scheduled visit.   Within the clinic, please wear a mask and use the hand sanitizer at reception.  Our clinic complies with the City of Calgary bylaw requiring mask covering over the age of two years old.  For patients who are unable to wear a face covering due to medical reasons, the patient can be scheduled for an appointment at a time when minimal number of other patients are in the clinic such as at the beginning or end of the day to ensure appropriate physical distancing requirements.

We are using disposable disinfectant wipes on all surfaces and devices such as front desk counters, chairs, handles in exam rooms and waiting room.  All eyewear that have been touched by patients are continually being sanitized.   Any toys and magazines are stored at this time.  Examination areas are being sanitized with hospital grade disinfectant.  Debit and credit cards but NO CASH payments will be accepted.

COVID-19 symptoms are not always obvious.  We want to fend off this pandemic and minimize risk to our patients and the Foresight staff as front line health workers.   Contact that is closer than 2 m (6 feet) is to be avoided, with barriers in place when this cannot be avoided. We choose to continue to do our work and cautiously take care of our patients with compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience.   It is a challenging and new experience for many of us, so let‘s support each other and prevent virus spread!  Beyond 2020, our focus is on take care of you and keeping Clean Hands, Clear Heads and Open Hearts.   For more information, please refer to the following web pages or phone Health Link 811.

Drs. Dianna Leong, Anh Bui, Andrew Chan