There are approximately 425 million people in the world living with diabetes.1 This number is projected to grow to 629 million by the year 2045.1 Out of all people living with diabetes, type 1 and type 2, 80% of diabetic patients will eventually develop some stage of diabetic retinopathy.2 The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that can cause vision loss and even blindness. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage tiny blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak or hemorrhage, ultimately distorting vision once progressed to severe levels.
Diabetic macular edema (DME) is the buildup of fluid in the macula. DME is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy and is responsible for about 50% of vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy.3
There are typically no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, allowing the disease to progress until it affects vision. Once symptoms appear, vision loss may be permanent, even with treatment. Symptoms that indicate advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy include:
The typical standard of care for diabetic patients is to receive an annual diabetic retinal exam with an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Unfortunately, only about half of patients with diabetes visit the eye specialist for annual retinal exams.4, 5 To help increase compliance, new technology has been developed to bring diabetic retinal exams into primary care settings.
Teleretinal imaging allows diabetic patients to receive their diabetic retinal exam during their routine appointment. Images of the patient’s retina are obtained via retinal camera and digitally read by a remote eye specialist. Results can be returned to the patient in as quickly as one day with select care delivery models. As a result, diabetic retinal exam compliance rates can increase up to 90% within one year.6
As always, it is crucial that diabetic patients follow their doctor’s treatment plan.
To help educate your patients and staff, we’ve created a helpful infographic that conveys the importance of an early diabetic retinopathy diagnosis.
1. IDF Diabetes Atlas, Eighth Edition 2017, page 9. www.idf.org
2. American Academy of Ophthalmology Retina/Vitreous Panel. Preferred Practice Pattern® Guidelines. Diabetic Retinopathy. San Francisco, CA: American Academy of Ophthalmology; 2014. Available at: www.aao.org/ppp. Accessed May 30, 2017.
4. Monitoring Visual Status: Why Patients Do or Do Not Comply with Practice Guidelines; Frank A. Sloan, Derek S. Brown, Emily Streyer Carlisle, Gabriel A. Picone, and Paul P. Lee; HSR: Health Services Research 39:5 (October 2004)
6. Comparing the Effectiveness of Telemedicine and Traditional Surveillance in Providing Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Examinations: A Randomized Controlled Trial; Mansberger et al, Telemedicine and e-Health, Vol. 19 No. 12, Dec. 2013.