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Diabetes Eye Exam

A regular eye exam is a cardinal requirement, especially for people with diabetes. If your doctor can identify and diagnose problems early, it can improve the chances of restoring or maintaining eye health. As a result, a diabetic person should go for an eye exam at least once a year.

Diabetes stops the body from storing and using sugar correctly. This may lead to a fluctuation in blood glucose level and eventually increased amounts of blood sugar which can damage tiny blood vessels in your retina– a condition known as diabetic retinopathy.

During the initial stages of the disease, you will not realize any vision changes or even develop symptoms. Only a diabetic eye exam can detect the problem to undertake preventive measures before the condition worsens.

Diabetic Eye Exam and How It Works

A diabetic eye exam is more thorough than a regular eye exam. It entails a test to check for any signs of eye complications caused by diabetes.

The exam aims to detect problems in the optic nerve (the nerve that connects your eyes to the brain) or retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) before you start losing vision. It can also monitor the progress of eye complications that your ophthalmologist identifies.

During the diabetes eye exam

An ophthalmologist will ask you to read some letters on a chart to ascertain whether you have difficulties with distance vision. If so, they can recommend the right measure to help solve or improve it.

After that, they will use special drops to widen your pupils (also known as dilation) for a clear view of your eye’s inner structures– precisely, the blood vessels at the back of your eye, optic nerve, and retina.

The eye drops take approximately 30 minutes to work and can cause temporary light sensitivity and blurred near vision. These side effects, however, should not be a cause for concern as they subside in just a few hours.

When the drops start to work, the ophthalmologist will ask you to look into the camera of special equipment.

Here, the doctor examines your blood vessels at the back of your eye, retina, and optic nerve for any signs of diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic macular edema, among other related problems.

They will also examine your retina’s periphery using a binocular indirect ophthalmoscope (BIO) which shines light in your eyes, allowing the doctor to observe the edges of the retina through the magnifying lens for possible diabetic disease, retinal holes, tears, or detachments.


While examining your eye’s optic nerves, retina, and blood vessels, your doctor will walk you through the findings. If they spot any signs of a disease, they will advise on the steps to take. This may include treatment to help preserve your vision or additional tests, such as optical coherence tomography or fluorescein angiography.

After the test, you can go home. However, note that it will take you a few hours to achieve normal vision. So ensure that someone is picking you up from the appointment. When you get home, avoid tasks that may strain your eyes. In addition, wearing sunglasses can help you see clearly.

Side effects are uncommon. But inform your doctor if you experience vomiting, nausea, headaches, or severe eye pain.

The Importance of Regular Eye Health Exams

While everyone needs a regular eye exam, constant examinations are necessary for persons with diabetes.

Diabetes increases the risk of eye complications, many of which may not exhibit symptoms until vision loss.

So because it is difficult to recognize symptoms, you need a regular eye exam test to ascertain if there are any issues present. Failure may put you at a greater risk of developing eye health problems or even vision loss.

The sooner your doctor identifies and diagnoses the problem, the better you can prevent vision problems or slow the progression of these diseases.

Who Needs a Diabetes Eye Exam?

Anyone diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes should go for an eye exam.

Pregnant women should also undergo an eye test before or within the first three months of their pregnancy. After that, they will be monitored throughout their pregnancy and a year after giving birth, subject to the severity.

How Often Should You Do an Eye Exam?

Experts recommend an eye exam yearly from an ophthalmologist who understands various eye complications that come with diabetes.

If you are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you must get a dilated eye exam within five years after diagnosis. After which, your doctor will recommend shifting to an annual exam.

One in every five people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes exhibits eye complications. You should, therefore, do an eye test immediately after your type 2 diagnosis. After that, your eye doctor will conduct regular screenings every year. If results are usual, some may suggest moving the tests to every two or three years.

What Happens if I Have Diabetic Retinopathy?

If your doctor diagnoses you with diabetic retinopathy, they may request several tests a year, depending on the severity of the condition.

What Is Diagnosis Like?

The best method to diagnose diabetic retinopathy is through a dilated eye exam. While they dilate your eyes, your doctor can also conduct one of the following diagnostic tests:

Fluorescein Angiography

Your doctor takes pictures of the inside of your eyes while dilating. They will also inject your arm with a special dye while your eyes are still dilated. This helps to identify the blood vessels with leak blood and blockages.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)

Optical Coherence Tomography takes images of your eyes from a cross-section, so your doctor can observe the fine details of your vision. The images exhibit your retina’s thickness and the exact place where fluid may leak due to damaged blood vessels.

Visit Your Eye Doctor Annually

Diabetes may seem tricky to manage, but our eye doctors are here to help. Book an appointment with our ophthalmologist for a diabetes eye exam.

We will protect your eye health and vision from potential complications, such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and macular edema.

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