New tool educates and motivates patients with diabetes-related eye disease

April 29, 2016
Tool shows respect to the retina.

For patients with diabetic retinopathy, seeing could be believing.

The new Diabetic Retinopathy Chairside Tool, developed by the AOA's Health Promotions Committee, is designed for use by doctors of optometry to educate—and motivate—patients with diabetes. Both sides of the 8 ½-by-11-inch laminated card contain ultra-wide images of the progression of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema.

The doctor- and patient-friendly tool, made possible by the support of Optos, is available in AOA Marketplace.

"Diabetes is potentially a devastating disease that is far more prevalent than the millions of people presently being treated," says Leonard Steiner, O.D., a member of the AOA Health Promotions Committee who practices in Oakhurst, New Jersey. "Patients, who can be made aware and have the disease controlled at the earliest stages, will not only save their vision, but it also will allow them to prevent many systemic complications caused by diabetes."

He adds, "Optometrists are at the forefront of this battle. By utilizing ultra-wide photography of the retina, optometrists can see fundus changes that take place not only centrally but in the periphery, which recently has become a focal point in the literature for progression of retinopathy. This is a great tool for both the doctor and for patient education. Showing patients the changes that take place makes them much more aware and concerned about the need to manage their diabetes."

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that can lead to blindness. The cases of diabetic retinopathy and vision threatening diabetic retinopathy among Americans 40 years and older is expected to triple in 2050.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Seeing spots or floaters
  • Blurred vision
  • Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
  • Difficulty seeing well at night

Unfortunately most patients with diabetic retinopathy and/or diabetic macular edema show no symptoms whatsoever in the early, most treatable stages of the diseases.

"The card was created to give practicing doctors an easy, chairside reference tool to demonstrate to patients the various stages of diabetic retinopathy," says A. Paul Chous, O.D., optometric representative to the National Diabetes Education Program of the National Institutes of Health and a member of the Health Promotions Committee who practices in Tacoma, Washington.

"What is unique about this particular tool is that the images used are ultra-wide field (200 degrees), meaning that about 16 times more retinal area can be visualized at one time compared to standard 45-degree images," says Dr. Chous, who called the growing rates of diabetes alarming. "Our goal was to be expressly patient- and doctor-friendly. The images let patients see the natural history of retinopathy and macular edema, as well as appreciate the full extent of the retina."

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