MONROE, La (KNOE) - What is the diabetic retinal screening?
A diabetic retinal screening is an eye exam, performed on patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes, to capture fundus photography or pictures of the fundus which is the back inner wall of the eye, to evaluate for retinopathy, which is a common complication of diabetes.
Courtesy: MGN Online
How does one know when they need to be tested?
People who have Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes need to have a retinal screen every year due to the high risk of developing retinopathy. Retinopathy is damage to the small blood vessels in lining at the back of the eye. The damage to the vessels are caused by uncontrolled blood sugar which leads to closure or swelling and leaking from the vessels and/or the eye may start to "grow" new vessels to compensate for the damage. The changes in the health of the blood vessels in the eye are what causes changes in vision. We say yearly screenings because in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, there are usually no noticeable symptoms or signs to alert the person that they have retinopathy. We have encountered some insurances that have some limitations of coverage for every 2 years. So if you are a diabetic, please make sure to check with your insurance company to see what your coverage is for diabetic eye exams.
How long does the screening take? What's the process?
The screening process takes around 15 minutes to complete. We have the patient come to the RetinaVue Exam room and sit for a few minutes with the lights dimmed. We then position the patient and capture images of the fundus of both eyes using our RetinaVue machine. A typical fundus photo would contain an image of the center of the very back inner wall of the eye — the retina. The optic nerve, macula and main retinal blood vessels are common structures seen in a typical fundus photo. We are looking for any signs of retinopathy, which is damage to the small blood vessels in the lining at the back of the eye. Once sufficient images have been captured, the images are encrypted and sent via a secure HIPPA complaint RetinaVue Network software. It is analyzed by a board certified ophthalmologist and a diagnostic report and referral/screening plan is returned in one day. Our usual turn-around time is 90 minutes. Approximately 95% of patients do not require chemical dilation using the RetinaVue equipment. Older patients or patients with cataracts or under certain medications may require a mild dilating drop. Also, the retinal screening exam only detects diseases that manifest in the retina, such as diabetic retinopathy. A RetinaVue screening is not meant to be used as a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam for things such as prescriptive lenses/contacts, but rather to improve compliance for diabetic patients who are non-compliant with an annual retinal eye exam to detect retinopathy.
Do patients need a referral?
To have a diabetic retinal screening, we would need an order from the patient's primary care provider. Once an order is obtained, all the patient and/or primary care provider has to do is call our office and we will handle the process from there, such as scheduling/calling the patient, checking to see if the patient's insurance requires a Prior Authorization and if one is need, we will take handle that also.
Why do we need to be screened?
People with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. It is a common complication of diabetes which affects the small blood vessels in the lining at the back of the eye. The damage to the blood vessels can lead to deterioration in vision. Screening is a way of detecting the condition early before you notice any changes to your vision. Diabetic retinopathy doesn't usually cause any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. The longer you have diabetes and the less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to develop this eye complication. When retinopathy is caught early through screening, treatment is effective at reducing or preventing damage to sight.