Eye Screenings for Diabetics Scheduled in Forsyth County

November 21, 2005

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Forsyth County residents who have diabetes and are uninsured or on Medicaid are invited to participate in free eye screenings to detect diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of preventable blindness in adults.

The screenings, which will be conducted from Dec. 5 through March 31, are part of a project called "I SEE IN NC,” which will determine if early screening using a special camera and images transmitted over the Internet can detect the disease early enough to prevent blindness.

“Medicaid patients are rarely screened and are at risk of becoming blind,” said Ramon Velez, M.D., M.S., of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, who is conducting the research.

The project will screen about 3,000 North Carolinians and mail the results to participants’ primary care physicians, who can refer patients who need treatment to eye specialists. The screening project includes these counties: Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus, Davie, Forsyth, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin.

The screenings are open to adults over age 18 and to children over age 12 who have had diabetes for at least five years. Preliminary results from pilot testing of the high-tech approach showed that among diabetic patients screened, about 15 percent required urgent referral to an ophthalmologist and more than 40 percent had some degree of diabetic retinopathy – changes in blood vessels in the retina.

By comparing study counties with those not getting special screening, Velez and his colleagues will determine to what extent the screening reduces blindness.

“Cases of blindness are partially attributable to the low levels of screening,” said Velez. “Screening identifies changes in the eye that the patient may not recognize. If treated early, blindness can be prevented.”

Currently, the screening rate among N.C. Medicaid patients is only about 14 percent.

Screening locations are:

For more information, to register or to see if you are eligible, contact Ron Gaskins, M.P.A., associate project manager, at 336-480-6934 or rgaskins@wfubmc.edu.


Media Contacts: Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, or Ann Hopkins, prmtemp@wfubmc.edu, at (336) 716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,187 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.

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