Monday, December 16, 2013

Digital retinal scanning system can head off blindness

Many people who have diabetes don’t get an annual retinal exam.

The retina is a delicate lining at the back of the eye, explains Dr. Larry Halverson, family medicine physician at Family Medical Care Center. When light strikes the retina it creates a picture that is sent to the brain, causing you to see.

“Diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina, which can cause blindness,” explains Dr. Halverson.

Now, diabetes patients at Family Medical Care Center are able get an annual retinal exam. An advisory committee raised the money to buy a digital retinal imaging system. Exams are provided for free to patients and local eye doctors read the images at no charge.

“With this technology we are able to do the exam while the patient is here and send it to an eye doctor for review,” says Dr. Halverson. A treatment plan begins immediately for patients who are at risk for losing their vision.

During the quick and painless exam, the patient sits still while a high resolution photo is taken of their retina or the back of their eye.

“When we show patients the damage diabetes has done to their eyes, they may be motivated to work harder get their diabetes under control,” he says.

When people get their diabetes in better control it also helps prevent heart attacks, kidney failure, amputations and other complications, adds Dr. Halverson.

“It’s extra work for our clinic, but we are really excited about the potential this has to improve our community’s health,” he says. “We hope to prevent blindness.”