WILLIAMSON – November is National Diabetes Month and the staff at The Diabetic Eye Institute, a part of Wilson Eyecare Associates in Williamson, wanted to inform those who suffer from the disease about the problems that may occur.
Dr. Steve Wilson, Dr. Shawn Sammons and the professional staff at Wilson Eyecare have established the The Diabetic Eye Institute.
Their optometry office has invested in state-of-the-art equipment (Optomap and OCT) that can do a 3-D scan of the eye and give the doctors a complete view of the entire eye, which can show any problems the patient may have. This high-tech equipment can give the optometrists a live, sophisticated view of the inner workings of the eye. It can help detect hemorrhages and other problems that may not be seen during a regular exam.
“We truly want to make a difference and we have a special passion for the diabetic population in the region,” Wilson said. “This is really on the upper crust of our list of concerns.”
He said that the number one reason that many diabetics are not being checked is that they don’t realize they need to.
“A diabetic eye disease in the early stages – in the vast majority of cases -doesn’t hurt and may not cause blurry vision early on in the disease,” Wilson stated, “that is an absolute false assumption.”
The second reason people are hesitant to visit their eye doctor is because of insurance and payment concerns.
Wilson Eyecare Associates not only perform a vision exam to determine if glasses are needed, but they also provide an extensive medical examination.
“In the majority of cases the exams are underwritten by insurance,” Wilson said. He said Medicare, once the deductible is met, pays 80 percent. The patient only has to pay 20 percent.
Some state Medicaid programs pay for the exam in full.
“The reason that diabetics don’t get the exam is that they don’t think they can afford it,” Wilson reiterated. “What we are really trying to communicate is the need to be examined on a regular basis.”
“Dr. Sammons and I both are seeing this disease to the point that we are disappointed – and there is a real need to intervene earlier,” Wilson said.
“We are a professional team, compassionately committed to providing excellent eye health programs and products for our precious family of patients,” Dr. Wilson stated.
An eye doctor can perform a vast variety of tests to find out if a patient has any problems.
The level of care The Diabetic Eye Institute is providing is much higher than an average eye examination. “We are excited about it,” Wilson said of the new Optomap technology.
Regular visits to your eye doctor are important, Wilson stressed. He also said a healthy exercise program is good for those who suffer from diabetes.
Wilson said it is also important to enroll in a diabetic education class, such as those offered by the Mingo County Diabetes Association.
Dr. Wilson, a graduate of Williamson High School, took over the family practice from his father, who started it in 1950. He has been practicing for more than 30 years. Dr. Sammons, a graduate of Matewan High School, joined the practice in 2014.
CAUSES OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
Diabetic retinopathy involves swelling, leaking or abnormal growth of blood vessels in or near the retina. There are multiple stages to this disease, the earliest of which may not present any symptoms you can see.
Symptoms you can see include dark or black spots in your vision that increase over time, or severely blurred vision due to bleeding within the eye.
That’s why comprehensive eye exams are so important when thinking about diabetes and eye sight—both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, and the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop some form of the disease.
Treatments for diabetic retinopathy include replacement of the inner gel inside the eye (called a vitrectomy) and different kinds of laser surgery. A recent clinical trial also suggested that better control of blood sugar levels slows the onset and progression of the disease in many patients.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
Anyone who has diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, but not all diabetics will be affected. In the early stages of diabetes, you may not notice any change in your vision. But by the time you notice vision changes from diabetes; your eyes may already be irreparably damaged by the disease.
That’s why routine eye exams are so important. Your eye doctor can detect signs of diabetes in your eyes even before you notice any visual symptoms, and early detection and treatment can prevent vision loss.
Floaters are one symptom of diabetic retinopathy. Sometimes, difficulty reading or doing close work can indicate that fluid is collecting in the macula, the most light-sensitive part of the retina. This fluid build-up is called macular edema. Another symptom is double vision, which occurs when the nerves controlling the eye muscles are affected.
If you experience any of these symptoms, see your eye doctor immediately. If you are diabetic, you should see your eye doctor at least once a year for a dilated eye exam, even if you have no visual symptoms.
If your eye doctor suspects diabetic retinopathy, a special test called fluorescein angiography may be performed. In this test, dye is injected into the body and then gradually appears within the retina due to blood flow. Your eye care practitioner will photograph the retina as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the retina. Evaluating these pictures tells your doctor or a retina specialist if signs of diabetic retinopathy exist, and how far the disease has progressed.
TREATMENT OF DIABETIC RETINOPATHY
Diabetic retinopathy can be treated with a laser to seal off leaking blood vessels and inhibit the growth of new vessels. Called laser photocoagulation, this treatment is painless and takes only a few minutes.
In some patients, blood leaks into the vitreous humor and clouds vision. The eye doctor may choose to simply wait to see if the clouding will dissipate on its own, or a procedure called a vitrectomy may be performed to remove blood that has leaked into the vitreous humor.
Small studies using investigation treatments for diabetic retinopathy have demonstrated significant vision improvement for individuals who are in early stages of the disease. Two medications that are closely related, Lucentis and Avastin, may be able to stop or reverse vision loss, similar to very promising results that have been reported when the two drugs have been used as treatments for macular degeneration.
Wilson EyeCare is located at 126 West 2nd Avenue, Williamson, W.Va. and the phone number is 304-235-2020. Check out their website at www.wilsoneyecare.com.
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)