Spotting diabetes and cancer in the eye

July 8, 2009 3:20:38 PM PDT
From diabetes to cancer it can all be spotted by taking a closer look at your eyes. A new laser scan is helping doctors find major health problems sooner.

Christa Dodge has eye cancer. "February of last year I started to notice flashes," she said.

Those flashes turned out to be a serious problem in Christa Dodge's left eye, a malignant melanoma.

Doctor Gregg Ossip spotted the problem with a one-second laser scan. The images show Christa's entire retina. This is the melanoma.

"It's actually looking through the dark part of the eye, looking through the pupil to the back of the eye which is the retina, so it's just capturing that image," said Dr. Ossip.

That image can spot cancer, glaucoma, macular degeneration, even the early signs of hypertension and diabetes. The scan zooms in on tiny blood vessels. If there are hemorrhages in the back of the eye, diabetes or stroke might be in your future.

"Sixty to 70 percent of these patients have no idea that diabetes, high blood pressure and these things are found in the back of the eye, and obviously if you're seeing them in the eye blood vessels, it's happening everywhere else in the body," adds Dr. Ossip.

There's a good chance Christa will lose vision in her left eye over the next two years. She says that beats the alternative: having her eye removed if the cancer had spread.

"At first I think i was a little scared about it, but if you think about it, two years is a long time," says Christa.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

Doctors believe with tools like the Optomap they can stop the disease before it becomes debilitating.


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