Diabetic Retinopathy: A Leading Cause of Blindness - 8 News NOW

Paula Francis, Anchor

Diabetic Retinopathy: A Leading Cause of Blindness

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Vision is one the primary senses effected by diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy has become one of the leading causes of blindness.

In this week's Dealing with Diabetes, the Eye on Health team hears about a local eye care center that's helping test a new treatment for this progressive disease.

Damage to blood vessels in the eyes caused by diabetic retinopathy accounts for 8-percent of all cases of legal blindness. Las Vegas ophthalmologist, Irene Voo is a specialist with Retina Consultants of Nevada. She says the severity of the disease varies; depending on how well a patient has controlled their diabetes.

Dr. Voo said, "When diabetes is not under control, the retinopathy progresses. We have seen patients stay at the same level for many years once their diabetes is under better control."

While there is no cure there are a number of treatments for diabetic retinopathy, including surgery, which may slow the loss of vision. A clinical trial is now testing the injectable drug "lucentis" to treat a form of retinopathy called macular edema.

"This is where there are abnormal leaky vessels in the macula leading to swelling. The swelling of the macula also causes blindness," Dr. Voo continued.

The lucentis trial is still enrolling patients.

Dr. Irene Voo, retina specialist, explained, "You have to be diabetic above 18 years of age and have a certain amount of control of the diabetic retinopathy. We cannot enroll patients who are proliferative or who require laser treatment or surgery. This trial is strictly to study diabetic macular edema."

For all diabetics an annual eye exam is a good idea. Early detection of a problem is helpful.

"Your doctor may notice hemorrhaging, bleeding inside the eye or cholesterol being deposited in the eye. These are early warning signs," the doctor continued.

You can reach the Retina Consultants of Nevada at (702) 369-0200.

Also, on Saturday, Mar. 10th, there will be an all day diabetes conference and health fair at the Riviera hotel. It is open to the public.

Send e-mail to: Anchor Paula Francis or Medical Producer Rick Andrews.

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