University of Iowa Health Care

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Diabetic Retinopathy:

From One Medical Student to Another

Jesse Vislisel and Thomas Oetting, MS, MD


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).

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last updated: 09-01-2010

Vislisel J, Oetting T.
Diabetic Retinopathy: from one medical student to another. Sept. 1, 2010; Available from:

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