“This is a great way to identify disease at earlier stages by screening more of our patients and preventing blindness.” —Dr. Raul Ayala
Sabrina Perez has done her best to manage her “out of whack” diabetes for more than 20 years, and it hasn’t always been easy with four children and a husband to look after.
So when her primary care physician told her there was a new exam to test her eyes for diabetic retinopathy, a disease that affects the blood vessels in the eyes, she agreed to it.
The high sugar content in the diet of a person with diabetes can cause the blood vessels in the eye to swell or leak, or even close, all of which can result in loss of vision, and sometimes blindness.
She had been told she was a “very high-risk patient,” and had grown concerned about her deteriorating vision, but didn’t know whether it was related to her diabetes or a natural occurrence of aging. “My vision is not as good as it used to be, but I don’t wear glasses,” she said.
Not long after, during her annual diabetic check-up, she found herself in a purposely darkened patient room having her eyes dilate and then undergoing a simple, 3-minute exam. Staff at that Adventist Health medical office had begun using a tool developed by Welch Allyn called RetinaVueTM. The easy to use tool allowed the medical assistant to take a picture of a patient’s eyes and immediately send it to a remote Ophthalmologist who would review the images and send a report back to the primary care office. This allows patients to receive the important exam without making an additional appointment and potentially driving a long distance to see a specialist.
“That’s why this is such a great service because often patients won’t exhibit symptoms until it’s too late,” Ayala said. “This is a great way to identify disease at earlier stages by screening more of our patients and preventing blindness,” he said.
When Sabrina’s results came back, she was given the ‘all clear.’ “They told me I should get follow-up checks, but that everything checked out fine,” she said.
Ayala said Sabrina should have the exam done annually and see her doctor every six months to monitor her diabetes because elevated blood pressure and cholesterol can contribute to the progression of the disease.
But for now, the results were very good news.
“I was worried that I might be getting cataracts, and I did not want to have surgery on my eyes. No one suggested this test before. I’m so glad they did.”