LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness. It is something that can oftentimes be diagnosed during an eye exam as an eye doctor sees cholesterol build-ups and abnormal blood vessels inside the eye.
Rogelio Gonzalez, of Lake Charles, never thought he had a problem with his vision or health until a routine eye exam nine years ago. "When they came in and checked my eyes, they discovered that I had diabetes," he said.
When it came to Gonzalez's vision, some of the damage to his eyes had already been done - something ophthalmologist Alan Lacoste sees daily in diabetics at The Eye Clinic.
"These are cholesterol deposits from the damaged blood vessels and we have hemorrhage here, these are abnormal blood vessels that do not belong here," said Lacoste.
Untreated, that damage can lead to blindness.
Lacoste says eye doctors get a unique look at how the body works overall through the eye.
"What we see in the eye is very characteristic of diabetic retinopathy," he said, "there really is nothing else that we see in the eye that looks like the pictures we've been viewing."
Dilated eye exams are the first step for an eye doctor to check the extent of damage in the eyes. Angiogram is also used by injecting dye into the arm or hand. As it travels through the circulatory system and up to the eyes, it can give a more detailed look at what is going on inside the eye.
"As it progresses, it's beginning to show the damage and all of this is abnormal," said Lacoste.
Argon laser therapy cauterizes or burns the damaged area, stopping the progression. It also shifts oxygen from the retina to the main nerve in the eye.
"The laser is a very special, very focused light beam that goes into the eye and each one of these spots, it cauterizes these areas where the damage is the worst," said Lacoste.
The tiny laser can be used numerous times over several years. Gonzalez has had the laser on both eyes and says he is grateful his diabetes was detected in time to save his vision.
"I don't want to be blind for the rest of my life," he said, "I have a lot of family to support."
It is very important for diabetics to undergo annual eye exams. If you want to learn more about the effect of diabetes on the eye and prevention, check out the free seminar with Lacoste at noon Wednesday. It is at The Eye Clinic's Lake Charles office on Oak Park Boulevard. Call 478-3810 to get your seat.