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New technology at Baton Rouge General could help detect retinopathy in diabetics sooner

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 7:31 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Roughly 1 in 5 people across Louisiana have diabetes.

And in some severe cases, that illness can sometimes lead to blindness.

“It’s kind of amazing, that just having an elevated glucose in your blood can lead to bad outcomes,” said Dr. Jacob Wood, family physician at Baton Rouge General.

Most people already know, that some diabetics have to test their blood sugar levels several times a day, usually by pricking their finger.

But blindness can also be associated with the disease.

“Diabetes can lead to blindness. That’s one of the major things that we’re trying to prevent by treating diabetes, is to prevent damage to the eyes that lead to blindness,” said Dr. Wood.

“Diabetes can lead to blindness. That’s one of the major things that we’re trying to prevent by treating diabetes, is to prevent damage to the eyes that lead to blindness,” said Dr. Wood.

“Because the blood vessel growth that happens on the retina, starts to block out areas that need to be used to for vision reception. And so, as those vessels grow and damage the retina, the vision decreases. And ultimately, can decrease to a point to where you’re blind,” said Dr. Wood.

Baton Rouge General has rolled out a new partnership with Williamson Eye Center, to try and catch retinopathy early on. With relatively new technology, that can be used during your regular visit to the doctor’s office.

“To help improve access to that screening, is to use this handheld retinal scanner that will actually do the pictures of the retina, that will look just like they would do at the ophthalmologist office,” said Dr. Wood.

“It’s a handheld device, that you can screen the retina in the back of the eye through an undiluted pupil, and pick up any abnormal changes,” said Brett Williamson, physician assistant at Williamson Eye Center.

Relatively new technology at Baton Rouge General could help detect retinopathy in diabetics...
Relatively new technology at Baton Rouge General could help detect retinopathy in diabetics sooner(WAFB)

The images captured are then sent over to folks like Brett Williamson at Williamson Eye Center, where they can immediately check for anything out of the ordinary in your retina.

“And so, it’s the image itself that may show us a little bit of swelling. Because fluid can develop in a space in the back of the eye, where fluid shouldn’t be. And if that is indeed the case, that can really hamper a person’s vision. And once again it’s a spectrum. So finding it early just through routine examination and referral, timely referral to eyecare specialists, that’s huge for a patient,” said Williamson.

"And so, it's the image itself that may show us a little bit of swelling. Because fluid can...
"And so, it's the image itself that may show us a little bit of swelling. Because fluid can develop in a space in the back of the eye, where fluid shouldn't be. And if that is indeed the case, that can really hamper a person's vision. And once again it's a spectrum. So finding it early just through routine examination and referral, timely referral to eyecare specialists, that's huge for a patient," said Williamson.(WAFB)

But here’s the big thing -- by doing this quick scan when you visit your doctor at any Baton Rouge General locations, they can check and treat disease of the retina sooner.

“One of the big issues that we have with diabetic patients with regards to the eye exams is them actually following up and doing those exams. Probably the biggest one is just the time, that it takes for them to go do yet another doctor’s visit to go get that looked at. And so to have an opportunity for them to do this exam here in the office, removes one of those barriers that they would have to get that examination done. Especially when you’re thinking about out in rural areas,” said Dr. Wood.

“That really saves a lot when it comes to continuing pathology, just really kind of putting the brakes on this decline in vision,” said WIliamson.

Doctors recommend you don’t wait until you have symptoms of diabetes to be screened for it annually at your healthcare provider.

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