Diabetes can have a profound impact on vision and eye health, putting patients at a higher risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and more. Unless your eye health is carefully monitored, your diabetes could even lead to blindness. It’s absolutely crucial that anyone living with diabetes has a diabetic eye exam at least annually.
How Often do People with Diabetes Need Eye Exams?
Once you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you need to schedule eye exams at least once a year. Your optometrist is the best authority on your eye health and will be able to give you the most accurate timeline for your next visit. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
Are Eye Exams Different for Diabetics?
In terms of testing your vision, an eye exam for a patient with diabetes is generally the same as any other eye examination, although your prescription may fluctuate more frequently. The major difference is in the ocular health evaluation. Diabetes can cause structural damage to the retina and the macula, which can result in vision loss.
Eye exams for diabetic patients typically involve thorough retinal imaging, allowing us to search for any indication of damage or early signs of disease, and monitor your eyes for future reference.
We usually dilate your pupils during a diabetic eye exam, so it’s best to arrange a ride home from your appointment.
Understanding Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic eye disease can refer to any eye issue that develops as a result of diabetes. Two conditions are exclusive to diabetes: diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema.
Long-term high blood sugar levels can eventually damage the small blood vessels in the retina. Over time, the body may try to replace the damaged blood vessels by growing new ones, which may leak and distort vision. This can cause retinal scarring and vision loss.
Diabetic Macular Edema
Diabetic retinopathy can, in some cases, progress to diabetic macular edema. As the damaged blood vessels continue to leak, the retinal tissue can swell and obscure the macula; the small part of the retina responsible for central vision. The swelling results in central vision loss.