From One Medical Student to Another
Screening for DR is incredibly important since most patients do not experience any symptoms until advanced stages of disease. If recognized early, the vision-threatening side-effects of DR can often be prevented with appropriate management. Recommendations for screening are different for type 1 and type 2 diabetics. Because many patients with type 2 diabetes have retinopathy at the time their diabetes is diagnosed, it is recommended that their annual dilated eye exams begin shortly after the diagnosis of diabetes is made. Type 1 diabetics should begin annual eye exams 3-5 years after their diabetes diagnosis (AAO 2008).
DR can progress rapidly during pregnancy. Pregnant women with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam prior to conception, early in the first trimester, and then every 3 months until delivery. Unlike pre-existing diabetes, gestational diabetes does not place patients at increased risk of DR and these patients do not require frequent eye examinations (AAO 2008).