Dr. Pravin Dugel Discusses Diabetic Retinopathy on AZ Family Channel 3

PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) –

Diabetic retinopathy is something you may not have heard of, but it is a leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among adults.

It is also causing lots of concern here in Arizona, not only because of the growing number of diabetic patients in general, but because of a specific population already diagnosed.

Whether she is watching a favorite TV show or talking with family and friends, Sandy Toglena does not take one moment of seeing it all for granted, even though she wishes she could see it better.

“And then even right now it feels like I have a shield over the top of my eyes  and I can see clear at the bottom.  And everything is kind of blurry,” she says.

Toglena suffers from Diabetic retinopathy, which is the most common cause of vision loss among diabetics.

“What happens in diabetes is the small blood vessels are affected,” says Dr. Pravin Dugel, MD, with Retinal Consultants of Arizona. “Those vessels that are affected will leak fluid much like a leaky pipeline. And that fluid, which is protein will go to the back of the eye and an area we call the macula and cause swelling.”

That is called Macular Edema.

He says another issue can also arise with retinopathy. “Another way patients lose vision, is when there is not enough blood flow because there is damage to the vessels, the eye grows blood vessels.”

Dr. Dugel says the problem is especially acute among Native Americans, whose diabetes rates are already double the general population. And in fact, Toglena says she does have some family history. “It was on my dad’s side that mostly had diabetes. But right now in my immediate family one of my sisters is diabetic.”

Dugel worries will see even more cases as diabetes rates soar in all Americans. “Oh, I have no doubt that that will happen,” he says. On the positive side Dr. Dugel says most vision loss is preventable. “Early on it is a matter of recognizing that you have the disease, then it is a matter of trying to control the blood pressure and the blood sugar.”

Even if there has been some damage, doctors can help with laser surgery and sometimes injections in the eye.  Toglana says she did not keep control of her sugar when first diagnosed, “And the biggest thing that changed at the time was my eyesight.”

And she says she is speaking up now, because she does not want others to make that same mistake. “Maybe I would not be where I am at, had I taken better care of myself.”

Because of the high prevalence among Native Americas, Dr. Dugel and Retinal Consultants of Arizona have set up clinics on many of  the reservations helping bring both awareness and treatment to remote areas of the state.

Posted in: AZ Family Channel 3, Diabetic Retinopathy, Dr. Pravin Dugel, Media