Trucker MD
The blind eye
One of the leading causes of adult new onset and preventable blindness is diabetes. Damage to the eye's retina from diabetes in medical terms is called "diabetic retinopathy." Did you know that diabetic retinopathy is detectable up to 20 years before the eye fails?

By John McElligott, MD
with Jeffery Heinrich, Ed.D, PA-C

If there was a simple test available to you that might save you from going blind due to Type II diabetes, would you jump at the chance to control a career-ending health event in the future? Sure you would.

There is such a test, and the equipment that makes it possible is available to truckers.

A new retinal camera is frequently aboard the “MeRV” – the Medical Resource Vehicle driven by Jon Osburn and sponsored by Safety First Sleep Solutions and the St. Christopher Fund. Many of you are familiar with Jon and the MeRV. The MeRV can arrange low-cost sleep studies, and Jon does blood pressure readings, A1C screenings and more for truck drivers.

Retasure’s new retinal camera has revolutionized retinal imaging by taking a one- to two-day ordeal and making it a one-hour or less procedure.

Our goal is to put one of these retinal scanners in the MeRV full time. The scanner takes two retinal photos. They are read by Norman Radke, MD, FACS. Dr. Radke is director of the Retina Vitreous Resource Center and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville.

According to Dr. Radke, it is estimated that 35 percent of any diabetic population will have diabetic retinopathy. We know this from the Beaver Dam Eye Study, a population-based study of age-related eye diseases in people 43-86 years of age.

In an ideal world every certified driver medical examiner could offer you this test at the time of your DOT exam at a price that pales in comparison to what a test would cost at an ophthalmologist’s office.

Remember, a Type II diabetic can prevent damage and preserve the vision in most cases if diagnosed early. LL

Editor's note: John McElligott is an MD and Fellow of the American College of Physicians. Jeff Heinrich, who serves as the column's medical editor, has a Doctor of Education degree and PA-C, which means Physician Assistant-Certified.