Retina specialist encourages eye exams during Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

Retina specialist encourages eye exams during Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 5:31 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2022 at 9:41 PM CST

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. That includes diseases like retinopathy, which can affect 1-in-15 diabetics and can lead to blindness.

“It’s the leading cause of blindness among working Americans aged 20 to 65 years old,” says retina specialist at CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic Dr. Ming Lu.

Lu says diabetes mainly affects the retina of the eye which is the film part of the eye that has a lot of blood vessels.

“When blood sugar is too high, it’s no longer sweet, it’s toxic to the blood vessels,” says Lu.

He says for mild to moderate stages of the disease, the patient may not feel anything. Once vision is blurry and blood clots are seen floating in the eye -- it’s at an advanced stage and some damage is done.

If they see bleeding that meets the treatment criteria, he says they have several procedures they can do to stop the progression of the disease.

“For example if they leak or bleed outside the center of focus, we can use lasers to cauterize. If the center is involved in focusing, we can inject medications to stop the leakage and get vision back.”

Karen Wood tells us that she was struggling at work when the numbers she was trying to total were blurry.

Dr. Lu asked her if she had diabetes or high blood pressure and she told him no, to which he told her she needed to get tested. This not only led to a diabetes diagnosis but a retinopathy diagnosis as well.

In that moment she thought, “I’m diabetic, I’m going to die. I got this eye disease because of the diabetes that is going to cause me to go blind,” says Wood. “I thought, oh my gosh, I’m going to die and I’m going to be blind at the same time.”

She says the treatments are traumatizing, but she does what she has to do to not go blind.

She thanks Dr. Lu for his role in catching the diagnosis before it was too late.

“If it hadn’t been for him, really, then I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. I’d probably be blind, in my left eye for sure.”

CHRISTUS has 22 cameras across East Texas that they use to screen patients with diabetes.

Dr. Lu recommends anyone with diabetes get an eye exam once a year.