News Releases

November 8, 2016

Media contact: Leigh DeLozier, (404) 778-3711, leigh.delozier@emory.edu

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

Emory Eye Center Physicians Help Screen Grady Patients for Eye Disease

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Number of Americans over 40 who have an age-related eye disease. [Graphic and statistics courtesy of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.]

Diabetic Eye Disease information chart

(ATLANTA) Diabetes affects more than 29 million Americans, making it a health concern for families everywhere. A common complication of diabetes is diabetic eye disease a group of sight-threatening eye conditions that people with diabetes might develop.

"People with diabetes are at higher risk for blindness and for severe vision loss because of certain conditions," says Joshua Robinson, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology, Vitreoretinal Surgery and Diseases (Retina), Emory Eye Center in Atlanta. "These include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic macular edema (DME)."

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. It happens when blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye) change. Sometimes the vessels leak fluid or blood into the eye, swell or close off completely. At other times, new but abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These new vessels can bleed or create scars that might cause the retina to wrinkle or detach.

"Screening for diabetic retinopathy is necessary since people with diabetic eye disease do not inherently have symptoms," explains Andrew Hendrick, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology, Vitreoretinal Surgery and Diseases (Retina). "One eye can develop vision loss that goes unnoticed unless the good eye is closed."

Emory Eye Center physicians screen patients for visually threatening complications of retinopathy to increase the chances of timely treatment and reduce the risk of irreversible damage. People with more severe diabetes and increased disease longevity are at the greatest risk.

One screening program Emory Eye Center physicians offer at Grady Memorial Hospital plays an important role in helping many people.

"The telemedicine program at Grady is intended to catch people who have not been receiving routine eye care to prevent vision loss when possible," Dr. Hendrick says. "Screening involves taking photographs of the retina that are then interpreted by physicians."

As with any other health screening, a patient's follow-up treatment will depend on the type of diabetic retinopathy the patient has and how severe it is. Three common treatments include:

A laser procedure to seal or destroy growing and leaking blood vessels in the retina

Vitrectomy, which removes blood or other substances that have leaked into the retina or vitreous humor (the substance that fills the eyeball)

Injections of medicine into the eye.

The diabetes clinic is fully equipped for screening, with plans to roll out the capability to other clinics in the near future.

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The Emory Eye Center is the largest, most comprehensive eye care facility in Georgia, serving patients for more than 125 years. With programs in cornea, retina (surgical and medical), glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, oculoplastics, ophthalmic pathology and pediatric ophthalmology, Emory has long been one of the most sought-after training programs for ophthalmology subspecialties. Innovative treatments, groundbreaking research and personalized care have earned the Eye Center the respect of patients and providers alike. To learn more, visit www.eyecenter.emory.edu.

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