By Cheryl L. Dejewski
Local eye doctors team with Spanish Journal to offer free diabetic eye disease screenings for Latino community.
Diabetes is reaching epidemic levels across all ages and races. Chances are you know (or are) one of the 25.8 million Americans with the disease. Whether or not the cause is due to poor diet and exercise choices, genetics, or both, take note: Diabetes does more than affect blood sugar levels. Complications from the disease make it a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. And, if you are Latino, you have up to a three times greater risk of losing vision to diabetes than a white person.
“Fortunately, the Spanish Journal is helping its readers protect their vision by teaming with our office to offer free diabetes eye screenings for qualified candidates,” says Dr. Mark Freedman, senior partner at Eye Care Specialists, a local ophthalmology practice that was honored with an achievement award for its work in serving the health care needs of Milwaukee’s Latino community. Freedman and his partners answer the following key questions about the sight-robbing risks of diabetes:
How does diabetes affect vision?
“With diabetes, fluctuating and high blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels that nourish the retina in the back of the eye to become weak or abnormal. This leads to leakage and bleeding that can blur vision and permanently impair sight.” reports Brett Rhode, MD, Head of Ophthalmology at Aurora Sinai Medical Center and a partner at Eye Care Specialists, where he utilizes advanced medication injection and laser treatments for eye diseases. “For some people, when a routine vision check-up uncovers signs of retinopathy, it is their first clue that they even have diabetes.”
What are the
Usually, none. Most people don’t notice a problem until retinopathy is so far advanced that lost vision can’t be restored. That’s why annual dilated eye exams are crucial. You should also call your doctor immediately if you notice vision changes in one or both eyes (not associated with fluctuations in blood sugar), numerous floating spots (like spider webs), or a veil over your vision.
Am I at risk?
“Of the nearly 26 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, up to 45 percent have some degree of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina), which can lead to vision loss and blindness. And, diabetic eye disease can appear as early as a year after the onset of diabetes,” says Daniel Ferguson, MD, a leading area eye surgeon who conducts continuing education programs for local health care professionals. He adds, “All diabetics—Type 1, Type 2, insulin-dependent or not—are at risk, which increases with the number of years you have diabetes. For example, patients with diabetes for less than five years have about a 15 percent incidence of retinopathy, but this skyrockets to 80 percent for people who are diabetic for 15 or more years. That’s why we can’t stress enough the sight-saving benefits of annual eye exams.”
How is retinopathy detected?
“For many patients, diabetes-related changes in vision occur so gradually that they don’t notice or take action. Or, because fluctuations in blood sugar levels can temporarily affect vision, they don’t know or realize that a more serious eye problem is developing. And, even if a person’s vision appears to be good, significant retinopathy may be present and progressing. That’s why diabetes-related eye damage can only be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Pupil dilation (enlargement with drops) is necessary to best check the back of the eye for early signs of retinopathy before noticeable vision loss occurs,” explains Daniel Paskowitz, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist with credentials from Harvard and Johns Hopkins.
Dr. David Scheidt, optometrist and 19-year member of the Wisconsin Diabetes Advisory Group, adds, “Diabetes-related sight loss is often preventable with yearly exams and early intervention. But all of our expertise, equipment and treatments are of no use if patients don’t come in for regular eye check-ups.”
How is diabetic
“When treatment is necessary, we have been very pleased with the success of medications like Avastin and Eylea that can be painlessly injected directly into the eye to stave off progression of the disease. These medications work to inhibit the growth of the abnormal blood vessels related to diabetic retinopathy. We evaluate each patient’s response individually to determine if and when (about every 4-12 weeks) they should receive injections. As a result, we have seen amazing results, including not only stabilization of vision, but in some cases, improvement in sight,” reports ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Raciti, a local leader in the fight against diabetic eye disease.
Do you have
diabetes? Was your last eye exam more than a year ago?
If you can answer “Yes” to those two questions and are NOT already a patient of Eye Care Specialists, call one of their offices listed below to schedule a FREE diabetic eye disease screening by March 1, 2015.
-West Allis: 10150 W. National Ave. 414-321-7520
-Milwaukee: 735 W. Wisconsin Ave.414-298-0099
-Wauwatosa: 2323 N. Mayfair Rd.414-258-4550
If a problem is detected during your screening, you can schedule a paid follow up appointment for treatment with Eye Care Specialists or see your own eye doctor. (Follow-up appointments are often covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. If these options are not applicable, arrangements can be made to accept cash, check, credit card or financing plan payment.) Don’t miss this opportunity to protect your vision or that of someone you know.
Whether you qualify for a free screening or not, EVERYONE should have their eyes checked at least every two years after age 40 for other conditions, like glaucoma and cataracts, that may be causing vision loss without you even noticing it. Call today. Free educational handouts are available in both English and Spanish.
Since 1985, Eye Care Specialists has provided medical, surgical and laser care for virtually every eye condition to more than 125,000 Wisconsinites. Their team also specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases prevalent in the Latino population, including diabetes, cataracts and glaucoma. For more information visit www.eyecarespecialists.net