01 JUL 2023

New Tool Can Save Eyesight

Close up of a mixed race man's eye.
An annual eye exam is the best way to determine if blood glucose levels are affecting a person’s eye health. The RetinaVue 700 Imager can complete this in 5 minutes through single trip to your primary care doctor.

NorthBay Health Primary Care in Vacaville is piloting an advanced piece of equipment that can be key in preserving the eyesight of diabetic patients.

It adds only an extra 10 minutes to an annual primary care exam, but can be an early indicator of trouble before warning signs arrive.

Medical Assistant Chelsea Corrales (left) and Nurse Pratitioner Zahara Daftarian show how the RetinaVue 700 can be used easily in an exam room.The RetinaVue 700 Imager, which arrived in May, looks like an extended viewfinder on a platform. The patient sits in a darkened room for five minutes until their eyes are dilated. Then the RetinaVue is wheeled in. The test takes up to five minutes.

Previous technology required a 30-to 40-minute visit at Primary Care, or a visit to an ophthalmologist.

“We don’t need to dilate their pupils with drops, and it eliminates the need for an additional appointment,” explained Zahra Daftarian, N.P. “It creates a convenient way for patients to complete their eye exam and results are back within 24-48 hours.”

Zahra, who co-chairs a NorthBay Health diabetes work group with family medicine specialist Frances Benko, D.O., says the goal is to improve the quality of care and outcomes for diabetic patients at Primary Care in Vacaville, Fairfield, Green Valley and American Canyon.

“We have all envisioned what medicine of the future would be like and it is now here,” said Dr. Benko. “To say we are excited to introduce this patient-centered comprehensive care experience is an understatement.”

The decision was made to pilot the RetinaVue in Vacaville because it has the largest number of patients of the four sites. If it proves a worthy investment, Zahra can envision having the RetinaVue at other locations.

In 2021, 3.2 million California adults had diabetes and 5.9 million or 20 percent were estimated to have prediabetes. The percentage of diabetes cases in Solano County has typically been higher than the state average for years.

According to the American Diabetes Association, an annual eye exam is the best way to determine if blood glucose levels are affecting a person’s eye health. Retinal imaging can detect very subtle changes, such as leakage, bleeding and abnormal growth in the blood vessels of the retina, which can cause blindness.

Other issues that can threaten vision include swelling and fluid build-up in the central part of the retina; glaucoma, or increased fluid pressure in the eye; cataracts and dry eye.

People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop dry eye, which causes blurred vision.

In addition to annual checkups, patients should report any change in vision, including:

  • Sudden difficulty reading or focusing on things close-up;
  • Sudden blurriness or double vision;
  • Pressure or pain in your eyes;
  • Presence of flashing lights, dark spots, or missing pieces in your vision;
  • Sudden appearance of floaters (moving spots or lines), especially when these are numerous; and
  • Appearance of red streaks in your vision; and
  • Sudden worsening of night vision

“We can’t take our vision for granted, and if someone has diabetes, it’s even more important to be proactive,” said Zahra. “This new tool makes it easier than ever.”

NorthBay Primary Care patients can schedule their annual check-up through the patient portal or calling (707) 646-5500.

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