Preferred Practice Pattern® guidelines should be clinically relevant and specific enough to provide useful information to practitioners. Where evidence exists to support a recommendation for care, the recommendation should be given an explicit rating that shows the strength of evidence. To accomplish these aims, methods from the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) and the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) group are used. GRADE is a systematic approach to grading the strength of the total body of evidence that is available to support recommendations on a specific clinical management issue. Organizations that have adopted GRADE include SIGN, the World Health Organization, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Policy, and the American College of Physicians.

  • The prevalence of diabetes, both worldwide and in the United States, is increasing; as such, the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy and vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy (VTDR) is also expected to increase dramatically.
  • Currently, only about 60% of people with diabetes have yearly screenings for diabetic retinopathy.
  • People with Type 1 diabetes should have annual screenings for diabetic retinopathy beginning 5 years after the onset of their disease, whereas those with Type 2 diabetes should have a prompt examination at the time of diagnosis and at least yearly examinations thereafter.
  • Maintaining near-normal glucose levels and near-normal blood pressure lowers the risk of retinopathy developing and/or progressing, so patients should be informed of the importance of maintaining good glycosylated hemoglobin levels, serum lipids, and blood pressure.
  • Patients with diabetes may use aspirin for other medical indications without an adverse effect on their risk of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Women who develop gestational diabetes do not require an eye examination during pregnancy and do not appear to be at increased risk of developing diabetic retinopathy during pregnancy. However, patients with diabetes who become pregnant should be examined early in the course of the pregnancy.
  • Referral to an ophthalmologist is required when there is any nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, proliferative retinopathy, or macular edema.
  • Ophthalmologists should communicate both ophthalmologic findings and level of retinopathy to the primary care physician. They should emphasize to the patient the need to adhere to the primary care physician’s guidance to optimize metabolic control.
  • Intravitreal injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) agents have been shown to be an effective treatment for center-involving diabetic macular edema and also as an alternative therapy for proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
  • At this time, laser photocoagulation remains the preferred treatment for non-center-involving diabetic macular edema.

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