Diabetic Eye Exams

shutterstock_309333959Diabetes affects many parts of the body, including the eyes.  Those with diabetes, or an elevated risk of diabetes, should seek regular dilated eye exams. This should be done even though they may not be experiencing problems with their vision.

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that often accompany diabetes and often and increased rate of development.  These include cataract (clouding of the eye's lens), glaucoma (increase of fluid pressure inside the eye leading to optic nerve damage and loss of vision), and diabetic retinopathy (the most common diabetic eye disease).  

Diabetic retinopathy damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye.  Symptoms may include blurred vision.  Retinopathy is a silent condition -- symptoms may not appear until the disease becomes more severe but the damage is still occurring in the eyes.  Current estimates for retinopathy are that it blinds as many as 25,000 people with diabetes each year.  People who have eye disease detected through an eye exam may save their vision by about 90 percent when compared to those with undetected retinopathy who otherwise become blind from the disease.

How do you prevent diabetic eye disease?  Having diabetes makes one at high risk for eye disease.  Good diabetes control may help prevent eye disease. 

How do you detect diabetic eye disease?  The only way to diagnose early signs of diabetic eye disease is through a dilated eye exam at least once a year. 

What is a dilated eye exam? 

This is a special eye exam to find out if there are any diseases in the eye including diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma.  During this exam the doctor uses special eye drops to temporarily enlarge your pupils.  Enlarging your pupils allows the doctor to see the back of your eyes and check if you are developing diabetic eye disease.