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Who Can Provide Diabetic Care

Eye Center, Southwest Health

If you have Type 2 Diabetes, like 10% of US adults, you may have an understanding of the importance of eye care. If left untreated or undetected, diabetes can cause severe vision problems and possibly even blindness. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74, and it’s a significant cause of blindness for those 75 and older.

Being diabetic puts people at a higher risk of significant complications, meaning it’s more important to check your eyes at least once a year to ensure any potential issues are being addressed in an appropriate timeframe. An annual comprehensive eye exam can help doctors discover irregularities before they seriously affect your vision.

So who can provide diabetic eye care? You may think you need to see an ophthalmologist to get specialized care. That’s not necessarily true. An optometrist can facilitate a yearly eye exam to assess the overall health of your eyes. During the health assessment portion of the eye exam, the doctor will check for the presence of any eye conditions, including, cataracts, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy, which are common issues associated with being diabetic.

Cataracts. This condition causes a “clouding” of the eye’s lens, making vision blurry. People with diabetes are more likely to get cataracts at a younger age.
Glaucoma. This is a condition that causes damage to the optic nerve of the eye. Glaucoma is a painless condition that progresses over time and can lead to serious vision issues. If not treated, glaucoma can cause vision loss or blindness. The American Diabetes Association has found that 40% of people living with diabetes are likely to develop glaucoma.
Retinopathy. This condition causes small blood vessels inside the eye to weaken and potentially leak blood. This disease can cause blindness if left untreated. There are no symptoms when the bleeding initially starts, so it is important to get your eyes checked regularly.

Now that you know who can provide you with eye care, you might be wondering who an optometrist is. An optometrist is an eye doctor capable of examining the eyes for vision defects, eye injury, eye diseases, and problems with general eye health. Optometrists are primary healthcare specialists. They differ from both ophthalmologists and opticians. Ophthalmologists are surgeons and opticians work primarily with dispensing glasses and contacts.

At Southwest Health, there are four optometrists who would be happy to discuss with people the options they have for managing their condition and getting regular exams. The four Eye Center locations in Platteville, Lancaster, and Darlington help make it easier to get accessible care, close to home. Below are the four Southwest Health optometrists:

Jenny Belken, OD, practices both at the Darlington and Platteville Eye Center locations with a special interest in fitting patients with contact lenses, managing ocular disease, pre and post-operative care, geriatric and pediatric care, and low vision.

Nicole Klein, OD, FAAO, specializes in primary eye care as well as ocular disease, acute eye conditions such as infection, inflammatory conditions, and tumors, and pre and post-operative care of patients involved in cataract, glaucoma, and oculoplastic surgery. She practices out of both the Platteville and Lancaster Eye Center.

Michael Tashner, OD, exclusively practices at the McGregor Plaza Eye Center location and specializes in assisting patients with their contact lenses, geriatric and pediatric care, low vision, and co-management of medical and refractive surgery.

Thaddeus Wontor, OD, has a special interest in providing care to rural communities. He practices in Lancaster and at Platteville’s Eye Center.

“Our goal as eye care providers is to help preserve vision and reduce the risk of vision loss. Annual comprehensive eye examinations are essential for detecting early changes before diabetic complications become severe enough to threaten your vision.” – Dr. Jenny Belken

Whether you’ve had diabetes for years or are new to the diagnosis, managing your condition may feel a massive undertaking. Remember, there are people around you ready and willing to support you. Look for online support, people in your life managing the condition or in-person support groups where you can learn more. There’s an ongoing Diabetes Support Group at Southwest Health that would be happy to have you.

Every 3rd Wednesday of the month, join Southwest Health Diabetes Educator Sandy Andrews and Dietitian Katelyn Schobert as they host a Diabetes Support Group focused on educating the community about managing their diabetes. To join the group, meet in Southwest Health’s 2nd floor Eastside Conference Room through the gold entrance at 1450 Eastside Road, Platteville, Wisconsin. No registration is required for this event! In October, Dr. Tashner will be talking specifically about diabetic eye care.

If you have any questions about your eye health or specific questions about diabetic eye care, please do not hesitate to contact the Eye Center at Southwest Health at (608) 342-2020. There are four convenient Eye Center locations in Platteville, both at our hospital and McGregor Plaza, Darlington, and Lancaster.