Diabetic Vision Saved With the Help of IRIS Screening

ARC patient, Demetrius K. was first diagnosed with diabetes on September 11, 2001 after experiencing pain along the side of his body. “The pain was so severe,” he says, “that even though I saw the planes hitting the World Trade Center towers on television, I couldn’t register what was happening.”

In 2015, Demetrius was one of 1,100 ARC patients with diabetes who received an in-office eye screening using telemedicine technology called IRIS (Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems). The screening tests diabetic patients for retinal deterioration, a sign that the patient is developing diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness in this country.

Demetrius became an ARC patient in 2010. “I was introduced to Dr. Vanessa Ven Huizen through my wife,” Demetrius says. Over the years, Dr. Ven Huizen (ARC Pflugerville) has overseen Demetrius’s care, treating his diabetes and hypertension and referring him to specialists when needed, including a cardiologist and an endocrinologist.

In 2014, Demetrius’s beloved wife passed away. “I met her in my early twenties and had known her for half of my life. It was a hit. I had to figure out what to do from there,” Demetrius says.

After his wife’s death, Demetrius, who is a web developer, worked for a couple of months, took some time off, and then took a contract position for three months. After that, he decided to go back to school for a Master’s Degree in Information Security. Through all the changes, Demetrius continued to see Dr. Ven Huizen regularly.

Dr. Ven Huizen recalls, “Demetrius was seeing me for follow-up on diabetes and hypertension that was becoming more and more difficult to manage, which I’m sure was worsened due to the recent death of his wife.”

She sent Demetrius for an eye scan on ARC’s IRIS scanner, an option that allows patients with normal results to avoid seeing a specialist. In Demetrius’s case, the scan results were abnormal.

“I didn’t expect him to have diabetic retinopathy at such a young age,” Dr. Ven Huizen says. “As soon as he was diagnosed, we referred him immediately to the ophthalmologist and endocrinologist to get quick control of his diabetes and retinopathy. We also adjusted his blood pressure meds multiple times to get it under better control faster. All of these diagnoses were adversely affecting his vision, with blindness being the long term potential consequence.”

Demetrius saw Ophthalmologist Robert W. Wong at Austin Retina Associates and was diagnosed with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (“NPDR”), an early stage of the disease. Demetrius began receiving Avastin injections in his eye. According to Demetrius, within three months of treatment, Dr. Wong “seemed to be shocked” at the rapid improvement of the condition of Demetrius’s eyes.

As in Demetrius’s case, when caught early, NPDR is treatable. Unfortunately, because diabetic retinopathy does not have early warning symptoms, many people with diabetes tend to put off or neglect their screenings until it is too late for treatment. ARC began offering in-office screenings in three ARC locations in August 2015 during regular patient visits to their primary care providers to make it more likely that patients who need screenings will receive them. IRIS screenings are now offered at six clinics, with plans to expand the service to other ARC locations.

Demetrius “really likes” using ARC’s MYCHART to keep in close touch with Dr. Ven Huizen. He uses the system to get prescription refills and to update Dr. Ven Huizen on his appointments as well as his blood pressure and blood sugar readings. Dr. Ven Huizen also receives reports from all of his specialists so she is never left “wondering what happened.”

Demetrius says, “Dr. Ven Huizen was there for me through all my difficulties. There were times when I was in transition and I didn’t have health insurance. She was very helpful and diligent and made sure I had what I needed for my health.”

Demetrius appreciates that Dr. Ven Huizen helped him figure out how to best get the care he needed while keeping his health costs affordable as he was attempting to “rebuild” his life.

Eventually, Demetrius sold the house he had shared with his wife and moved into an apartment. “I travel over 20 miles to see Dr. Ven Huizen,” he says. “I know there are ARC clinics that are closer to my apartment, but I won’t switch. Dr. Ven Huizen is compassionate and understanding like a caregiver is supposed to be.”

Recently, Demetrius, who is almost halfway through his master’s degree with a 4.0 GPA, went back to the job he held in 2014. When Demetrius is not working or studying at one of his favorite coffee houses, he is striving for “work/life balance.” He recently took his keyboard out of storage and began to play music again after many years. Demetrius also bought new DJ gear and has been sharing his music with friends and family. “I have a collection of over 41,000 songs—dance, hip-hop, R&B, disco, and music from the 20’s, the 50’s, the 60’s. I work on creating moods in my mixes.”

Demetrius appreciates that Dr. Ven Huizen’s care and the IRIS screening led to early treatment of his NPDR. He makes his health a priority. He cooks and eats a “doctor approved” diet and gets regular exercise at a twice weekly “boot camp.”

“Demetrius has taken full responsibility of his diabetes and blood pressure,” says Dr. Ven Huizen. “He’s gone through a lot and it’s satisfying as a physician to see him getting healthier.”

Tags: Dr. Vanessa Ven Huizen, Diabetic retinopathy, diabetes, eye scan

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