Detecting diabetes through the eyes

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Looking into the eyes can actually alert a physician to underlying health problems inside a person's body.

High resolution images now at an ophthalmologist's fingertips give a physician a unique look inside the entire body.  Dr. Alan Lacoste with The Eye Clinic said, "By looking into the eyes we can see the blood vessels, so there's really nowhere else on our bodies where you can just visibly look at the blood vessels."

Dr. Lacoste said that by examining the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye, he can oftentimes detect undiagnosed diabetes.  "One of the first things that you see are areas of bleeding right outside the blood vessels," said Dr. Lacoste.

This damage is known as "diabetic retinopathy" and it's something Dr. Lacoste said needs to be taken seriously.  "Even with all our technologies and abilities to treat it," he said, "more people go blind from diabetes than any other condition."

If caught early enough, a laser can be used to decrease the fluid leakage.  "When you focus the laser on the diseased part of the retina," said Dr. Lacoste, "the light travels through the eye and has no effect on the eye - but then when it hits the retina, it's stopped and it's converted into a minute amount of heat and it cauterizes the retina."

Laser surgery does not cure diabetic retinopathy, but it will help prevent further loss of vision.

Early intervention is key to those most at risk for vision loss because of diabetes.  Dr. Lacoste said, "With the increased diagnosis of diabetes in our population, it's critically important that everyone have a complete eye exam once they're past 45 years of age every year."

This exam should come earlier if you have a family history of the disease.

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