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May 25, 2001

Complications

Question from South San Francisco, California, USA:

I was just diagnosed with retinopathy. I was told it is stable and to come back in one to two years. Should I be concerned? Can my blood sugars help or harm my retinopathy?

Answer:

Yes, you should be concerned.

First, retinopathy is an indication that elevated blood sugar has started to affect the integrity of the vascular system. If the microvascular disease is now affecting the eye, it may also be affecting your feet and the kidneys will follow. From what you have said, I can only assume that the retinopathy is mild and therefore in the early stages were improved glucose control and maintenance may lessen any progression and other organ system involvement. Blood sugar control minimizes retinopathy and slows its progression and lack of control increase the retinopathy and speeds the progression.

Secondly, if your eye doctor detected retinopathy and asked you to come back in one to two years, I would suggest you get a second opinion. The standard of care for patients with diabetes is an annual dilated eye exam even if no retinopathy exists. If you have retinopathy you should be examined yearly or even more frequently depending on the severity of the retinopathy.

CAG