Retinopathy in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Although Primary Care Physicians are aware that vision problems occur in many patients with diabetes, it is important to recognize that diabetic retinopathy can develop in anyone with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. In fact, diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.

Key Messages about Retinopathy

  • Talk to your diabetic patients about the importance of an annual eye examination that includes dilation and retinal scan. Some patients think getting a new pair of glasses is sufficient. However, the eye exam must include a retinal scan and interpretation by an ophthalmologist.
  • When patients have had diabetes for a long time, the disease may still be silent. Make sure the patient sees the appropriate physician—in this case, an ophthalmologist. Perhaps, even a retinal specialist to ensure no findings are missed.
  • Educate patients with diabetes to be alert to any change in their vision from what is normal. Floaters, problems with peripheral vision, red eyes, or a loss of vision warrant the patient's contact with their treating physician.
  • Primary care physicians and other medical specialists who treat Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes need to ask patients at every visit about changes in their vision.
  • Patients with Type 1 diabetes should begin annual retinal scans after 5 years of being diagnosed.
  • Patients with Type 2 diabetes should begin annual retinal scans when diabetes is first diagnosed.
  • Avoid exercise or movements that involve valsalving, such as weight lifting or straining during a bowel movement.
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