Diabetes can lead to serious eye disease and even blindness. You need a comprehensive eye exam —called a diabetic eye exam — at least once a year.
November is Diabetic Eye Disease month. Diabetic eye exams are the best way to prevent eye problems from diabetes, so it’s a great time to learn about them.
What is diabetic eye disease?
Diabetic eye disease is just that – eye damage related to diabetes. The most common type is diabetic retinopathy. But diabetes also raises the risk of cataracts and glaucoma. Learn more about diabetic eye disease.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can affect your eyes. Blood sugar can get too high in both types, damaging blood vessels in the eye.
What happens at a diabetic eye exam?
First, your eye doctor checks your vision and asks you to read letters on an eye chart. Next, the doctor examines the front of your eyes using specialized lights and lenses. You might also have the pressure inside your eyes checked with an instrument called a tonometer. After this, you are given eye drops to open up (dilate) your pupils. You relax in the exam room for 15 – 30 minutes while your eyes dilate fully. Then the doctor examines the back of your eyes, including the delicate blood vessels in the retina. These are the vessels damaged in diabetic retinopathy, so regular dilated eye exams are very important. Having the pupils dilated allows your doctor to see the entire retina, including any changes.
You might also have photographs taken of the retina. This is called digital retinal imaging. The doctor reviews the images carefully for signs of diabetic eye disease. He or she can also compare images from year to year to keep track of any changes.
How often should I have diabetic eye exams?
Every year, unless your doctor tells you to come in more often.
Should I do anything before my diabetic eye exam?
Keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. This is important for long-term prevention of diabetic eye disease and other health problems. But it’s especially important for at least several days before a diabetic eye exam. That’s because your eyes focus differently when your blood sugar is out of control. If your doctor checks your vision at that time, the results will be different from when your blood sugar is stable. Glasses prescribed when your blood sugar is high will not work well when it comes back down.
If you wear glasses, the opticians at The Sight Shop can help you find the best lenses and frames, even if diabetic eye disease affects your vision.
Get a diabetic eye exam
The doctors at Oregon Eye Specialists are experienced with diabetic eye exams and recognizing diabetic eye disease. Call 503-935-5580 for an appointment, or contact us. We have 10 convenient locations for all your eye care needs.