Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It affects blood vessels in the retina, which is the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye.
Keep an eye on your diabetes
If you have diabetes, you know it’s important to stay physically active, eat healthy, and take your medicine, but it’s also important to get a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
OSF HealthCare is now making it easier for people with diabetes to get the eye exam to detect diabetic retinopathy early when steps can be taken to protect their vision.
OSF uses IDx-DR developed by Digital Diagnostics. IDx-DR uses artificial intelligence-based technology to detect diabetic retinopathy, including macular edema. The technology takes photos of the back of retina and uses artificial intelligence to evaluate the extent of damage to blood vessels. The test typically takes a few minutes and in most, but not all cases, doesn’t require eyes be dilated. It’s available at 32 OSF Medical Group primary care offices in communities served by OSF.
Mark Meeker, DO, vice president of Community Medicine for OSF, said the convenience means people with diabetes can catch and manage their diabetic retinopathy earlier, which can prolong and even save vision.
Diabetic retinopathy causes and symptoms
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar due to diabetes. Having too much sugar in your blood over time can damage the retina.
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually don’t have any symptoms. Some people may notice changes in their vision, like trouble reading or seeing faraway objects.
In later stages, blood vessels in the retina start to bleed into the vitreous (gel-like fluid that fills your eye). This may cause floating spots or streaks that look like cobwebs. Sometimes, the spots clear up on their own — but it’s important to get treatment right away.
Regular exams needed
With busy schedules and work demands, Dr. Meeker stresses it’s important to make exams as convenient as possible. IDx-DR makes in-office testing quick and easy. The artificial intelligence makes it more accurate than a typical eye exam given in a primary care setting.
“The AI can see the early changes of diabetic retinopathy that we may not be able to see with our own eyes,” Dr. Meeker said.
“There’s nothing as good as prevention. And the way you prevent it, is to tightly control the diabetes to begin with,” Dr. Meeker said. “So as soon as we see those retinopathy changes, if we can really get the attention of the patient to really pay attention to their sugar control, we can decrease that progression through prevention, not just through treatment.”
Last Updated: March 2, 2023