U Penn researchers combating blindness from diabetic retionopathy in local community with 4 Sight program

(Philadelphia, PA)--The Scheie Eye Institute, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania Health System, continues to expand an aggressive and unique recruitment program within the local West Philadelphia community to promote the early detection of diabetic retinopathy. While ophthalmologists have a treatment that is nearly 100 % effective in preventing this form of blindness, it remains the leading cause of blindness among working age adults. The age distinction is especially critical because diabetic retinopathy can hit patients during their most productive years, whereas age related macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts which cause more blindness overall, mainly affects the older generation, notes 4 Sight program Director, Maureen G. Maguire, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania Health System Professor of Ophthalmology.

The 4 Sight program, the first of its kind in the nation, seeks to recruit diabetics to participate in annual eye examinations as recommended by the American Diabetes Association. People with diabetes are at high risk for vision loss as their condition often leads to blood vessel damage in the retina. Additionally, diabetics have an increased risk for developing glaucoma and cataracts. Many diabetics, however, have no idea they have severe diabetic retinopathy until they have a catastrophic event such as a hemorrhage or a retinal detachment.

The annual examinations become the critical component. Less than half of diabetics who should be getting annual exams do so. It is of added concern that communities with education and lesser income levels have markedly lower examination rates. Annual exams can reveal changes in a patients eyes that indicate problems necessitating a series of proactive and preventative treatments, depending on the severity of the condition. These measures range from the simple, regular monitoring of ones blood glucose level, where the changes in the eyes have been minor, to laser treatment in more

Contact: Michael S. Williams
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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