If you are one of the estimated 34.2 million people in the United States with diabetes and you regularly visit your eye doctor, you are very likely to be asked to attend a diabetic eye exam. This is because people who have diabetes are at greater risk of developing certain complications to do with their eye health and vision, and in particular, diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that occurs when persistently high blood sugar levels damage the area of cells found at the back of the eye called the retina. Any vision loss that is caused by diabetic retinopathy is permanent and unable to be restored.
The retina is the part of the eye that receives light that passes through it, converting it into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain which then determines what we can see and how clearly we can see it. The retina relies on a constant supply of blood, which also brings oxygen and nutrients to it to keep it healthy. It receives this blood through a network of tiny blood vessels. However, over time, persistently high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the blood vessels as they start to bulge, bleed and cause scar tissue to develop.
Fortunately, it is possible to pick up these changes early on if you attend diabetic eye exams on a regular basis.
Exactly what is involved in a diabetic eye exam can vary depending on precisely which tests your eye doctor feels is necessary. However, typically you can expect any of the following:
Visual acuity testing – Many people are familiar with this assessment which is when the clarity of your vision is checked with an eye chart. You’ll be asked to read out the letters and words present to see if there has been any change to your eyeglasses prescription.
Dilated pupil exam – In most diabetic eye exams, your pupils will be dilated using eye drops – something which makes them much larger and prevents them from reacting to light as they usually would. This gives your eye doctor the chance to look through them and evaluate the structures at the back of your eye to see if there are any abnormalities, including those caused by diabetic retinopathy. This is known as a fundoscopy. Your eyes will remain sensitive to light for several hours following this exam.
Fundus photography – This is where your eye doctor chooses to photograph your fundus to create a permanent record of the appearance of your retina and the blood vessels that serve it. This can be referred to for comparative reasons in the future if necessary.
Although the main purpose of a diabetic eye exam is to determine if you are experiencing diabetes-related complications, the exam itself can also pick up other potential eye health problems that can be caused by diabetes, including cataracts and glaucoma. Therefore, your eye doctor may also make recommendations for treatment for these conditions too if either of them are detected.
If you suffer from diabetes and you haven’t had a diabetic eye exam in the last year, call us to schedule an appointment and prevent unnecessary vision loss and other eye-health complications. You can call Seabert Eye Care in Burleson, Texas at (817) 857-8700 today.