The Importance of Diabetic Eye Exams

Diabetic eye screening is recommended for everyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes. This is because people who have diabetes can potentially suffer from a complication of their condition that’s known as diabetic retinopathy. This is particularly true if they’ve had diabetes for a long time, and their condition has been uncontrolled at least some of that time. Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy can be detected by attending routine diabetic eye exams.

What is Diabetes and How Does it Affect the Eyes?

Diabetes is a metabolic condition that is estimated to affect 1 in 10 Americans, with a further 1 in 3 suspected to have pre-diabetes. Diabetes occurs when your body can’t produce enough insulin to control your blood sugar levels, or when the insulin it does produce isn’t effective. In rare cases, patients with diabetes don’t produce any insulin at all.

What this means is that the levels of sugar in the blood become too high. And this causes a range of symptoms as well as damage to your body.


Symptoms of Diabetes

There is a range of symptoms associated with diabetes, including:


  • Being really thirsty all the time

  • Going to the toilet to pass urine more than usual

  • Losing weight without trying to

  • Feeling more tired than usual

  • Taking longer to heal from cuts and other wounds

  • Blurred vision


Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can lead to permanent vision loss if it isn’t detected and treated quickly. It affects blood vessels in the retina, which is the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of the eyes and is responsible for receiving light and turning into signals sent to the brain to tell us what you can see.


If you have persistently high blood sugar levels, over time these start to cause damage to blood vessels serving the retina. They can start to grow abnormally, and leak fluid into the macula (part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision) permanently altering your eyesight.


The early stages of diabetic retinopathy don’t usually result in any noticeable symptoms. However, you may start to find that you notice you are experiencing trouble reading or seeing objects that are further away. Your vision may be blurred, and this may come and go.

As diabetic retinopathy progresses, you may notice dark spots or streaks in your vision that look like cobwebs (caused by bleeding into the macula). Diabetic retinopathy can cause scars to develop in the back of the eye, and these areas of thickened tissue can pull your retina away from the back of the eye – a complication called retinal detachment that results in permanent vision loss.

What are Diabetic Eye Exams?

Diabetic eye exams can be carried out separately or as part of a comprehensive eye exam. They enable your eye doctor to check for signs of diabetic retinopathy or indicators that it may be developing. Early identification is crucial to prevent unnecessary vision loss.


Diabetic eye exams involve your eye doctor using special drops to dilate your pupils. They can then look through them and visualize the back of the eye using a special camera. This will enable them to assess the health of the blood vessels. Any abnormalities can be indicative of diabetic retinopathy.


If your eye doctor is concerned that your diabetic retinopathy may be advanced, you may be asked to have a further test called a fluorescein angiogram. This is where a special dye is injected into your veins and passes through your body. This dye shows up on images that let your eye doctor see pictures of how the blood vessels in your retina are working.

Can Diabetic Retinopathy Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy, or to get it under control in the early stages, is to manage your blood sugar levels as well as possible. Not only could you potentially get medication to help you do this, but you should also make positive lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, monitoring how much sugar you are consuming, and getting plenty of exercises. Your general doctor will be able to help advise you on how to get your diabetes under control to reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy.



For more information about diabetic retinopathy, or to schedule an appointment to discuss this condition, visit Pinnacle Eye Group of Lambertville in Lambertville. Call  (734) 562-0099 today.

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