Diabetic Eye Exams

Diabetes in the Eye

Diabetes mellitus is a disease that affects your ability to control your blood sugar (glucose) levels. High blood sugar causes damage to the blood vessels throughout the body. When diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels in the eye it is called Diabetic Retinopathy. The damaged blood vessels are prone to leaking, bleeding, growing abnormally, and becoming blocked or not allowing blood to flow through anymore. All of these changes are destructive to the delicate neural retina tissue and can cause permanent vision loss.

What can I do to reduce my risk of vision loss from diabetes?

The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of vision loss from diabetes is to maintain good control of your blood glucose and your blood pressure and have regular annual dilated eye exams. There are studies that suggest good control of both your blood pressure and your blood sugar can reduce your risk of vision loss by over 75%. Achieving this requires continued to follow up and monitoring with your primary care doctor. Make sure to talk to your primary care doctor about what your individual blood glucose target and blood pressure target should be. At Tailored Eyes, we will work closely with your primary care doctor and communicate any important findings from your exam to help guide your treatment and preserve your vision.

Warning signs of diabetes in the eye

In early diabetic retinopathy, you can have damage in the eye and the retina and you may not know it. The changes can be taking place in the periphery of the retina so there may not be any vision changes or the vision changes may be very subtle. If your diabetic retinopathy gets worse, then you may notice any of the following changes:

  • new floaters in the vision
  • changes or increased number of floaters
  • foggy or blurry vision
  • decreased night vision
  • parts of your vision missing or seeing a black/dark spot

If you notice any of these changes or would like a diabetic eye exam, call Tailored Eyes or your local ophthalmologist for an appointment.

When should patients be screened for diabetic retinopathy?

All patients with type I and type II diabetes mellitus need a dilated eye exam at least once a year. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes in the eye (diabetic retinopathy) then you will need to be seen more frequently based on the severity of your disease.

Newly diagnosed type II diabetics (adult-onset diabetes) should have a dilated eye exam right away to look for diabetic changes in the eye. The reason is many type II diabetics have had the disease for several years before learning of the diagnosis and uncontrolled blood sugar is dangerous for the delicate retinal vessels.

Newly diagnosed type I diabetics should have a dilated eye exam within a few years of being diagnosed to look for diabetic retinopathy changes and then at least annually after that.

Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy

There are many different treatment options for diabetic retinopathy. There are retinal lasers, intraocular injections, and surgeries. Today, these treatments are performed by a retina specialist or someone who specializes in treating diabetic retinopathy. Some of the causes of decreased vision are treatable and reversible while others are not.

The BEST treatment for diabetic retinopathy is PREVENTION. Controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure can not only reduce the chance of you developing diabetic retinopathy but can also help preserve your vision and prevent the disease from getting worse.

Vision loss from retinal swelling or blood vessel leaking is called diabetic macular edema.

Damage to the retina and abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

If you develop diabetes in the eye that needs treatment, we will communicate with your primary care doctor about the findings and help refer you to a retina specialist for further evaluation and management.

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