How Is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed
The only way to diagnose diabetic retinopathy is to have a dilated eye exam. For this test, your ophthalmologist will place drops in your eyes to widen, or dilate, your pupils. Dilating your pupils helps your doctor to see inside your eyes more easily and inspect for damage caused by retinopathy.
While your eyes are dilated, your doctor may also conduct one of two diagnostic tests:
Things To Know Before Undergoing A Diabetic Eye Exam
Diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body. Youre probably familiar with diabetic foot which is a result of vessel damage leading to diabetic neuropathy, causing foot numbness and sores but diabetes can also lead to eye problems such as diabetic retinopathy. This tends to cause blurriness, difficulty distinguishing colors, and seeing dark areas in your field of vision.
Diabetic retinopathy may not present obvious symptoms in its early stages, but it can lead to blindness if left untreated. Lets talk about what is involved in a diabetic eye exam and its importance in the maintenance and treatment of diabetes, possibly including diabetic retinopathy.
Prevent Or Delay Eye Diseases
You can protect your vision and lower your chance for vision loss with these steps:
- Get a dilated eye exam at least once a year so your eye doctor can spot any problems early when theyre most treatable.
- Keep your blood sugar levels in your target range as much as possible. Over time, high blood sugar not only damages blood vessels in your eyes, it can also affect the shape of your lenses and make your vision blurry.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in your target range to lower your risk for eye diseases and vision loss. Also good for your health in general!
- Quit smoking. Quitting lowers your risk for diabetes-related eye diseases and improves your health in many other ways too.
- Get active. Physical activity protects your eyes and helps you manage diabetes.
- Ask your doctor for a referral to diabetes self-management education and support services. People who receive less diabetes education are twice as likely to get diabetic retinopathy as people who receive more education.
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How Do Doctors Diagnose Eye Problems From Diabetes
Having a full, dilated eye exam is the best way to check for eye problems from diabetes. Your doctor will place drops in your eyes to widen your pupils. This allows the doctor to examine a larger area at the back of each eye, using a special magnifying lens. Your vision will be blurry for a few hours after a dilated exam.
Your doctor will also
Swelling Of The Eye Lens
Another potential effect from diabetes is swelling of the eye lens, leading to blurry vision. If your blood sugar levels change quickly from low to normal, the shape of your eyes lens can be affected and your vision can be blurred. Your vision goes back to normal after your blood sugar stabilizes. If youre getting eyeglasses, make sure your blood sugar levels are controlled before your exam so that you can get the most accurate glasses prescription, says Cai.
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What Happens During Diabetic Eye Exams
During a comprehensive diabetes eye exam, your eye doctor uses a visual acuity test and refraction testing to assess your vision at various distances. They dilate your pupils and then look inside your eyes to determine if you’re suffering from any eye diseases. Your eye doctor examines your optic nerve and retina using a magnifying lens.
They measure the pressure inside your eyes during glaucoma screening and could use an imaging procedure like an MRI to get an in-depth view of your eye. With routine screenings, your physician can detect diabetic eye diseases early before serious complications develop.
How Often Should I See My Doctor
People with diabetes who use insulin shots usually see their doctor at least every 3 to 4 months. People who take pills or who are managing their diabetes through diet alone should have an appointment at least every 4 to 6 months.
You may need to go more often if your blood sugar isn’t controlled or if your complications are getting worse.
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Risk Factors For Diabetic Retinopathy
Anyone with type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop it. These factors can also increase your risk:
- Blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels that are too high.
- Race/ethnicity: African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians/Alaska Natives are at higher risk.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, low-vision aids such as magnifying glasses and special lenses can help. Ask your eye doctor to refer you to a low-vision specialistexternal icon.
What Does My Doctor Need To Know
Generally, your doctor wants to understand how well your diabetes is controlled and whether diabetic complications are starting or getting worse. Therefore, at each visit, give your doctor your home blood sugar monitoring record and tell them about any symptoms of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia .
Also let your doctor know about any changes in your diet, exercise, or medicines and any new illnesses you may have gotten. Tell your doctor if you’ve had symptoms of eye, nerve, kidney, or cardiovascular problems such as:
- Numbness or tingling in your feet
- Persistent hand, feet, face, or leg swelling
- Cramping or pain in the legs
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When Should I See A Doctor Right Away
Call a doctor right away if you notice sudden changes to your vision, including flashes of light or many more spots than usual. You also should see a doctor right away if it looks like a curtain is pulled over your eyes. These changes in your sight can be symptoms of a detached retina, which is a medical emergency.
What To Expect At The Diabetic Eye Exam
The eye exam involves various different steps detailed below. It begins with your eye doctor having a conversation with you about your diabetes and overall health. Your vision will be checked. The diabetic eye exam includes pupil dilation and proper checking of the health of your eyes using different kinds of methods and instruments.
Your eye doctor will want to hear all about your diabetes and medical background. It is important to share which type of diabetes you have and when you were diagnosed. The eye doctor will ask for details on the medications you take and what you do to manage your diabetes. Any other medical information including eye diseases in first degree relatives is also important to share. Please tell your eyecare provider if you have any eye symptoms or have noticed any changes in your vision.
The eye chart will be used by either your eye doctor or an assistant to check your visual acuity. Your vision can be affected by diabetes and therefore it’s important to check how well you’re able to see at each visit in order to monitor for any changes. If your clarity of vision decreased, a new prescription for glasses may be given after doing a part of the eye exam known as refraction which determines the best optical correction for you. Its important to note that the most accurate prescription can be given when your blood sugar has been under control for at least a week prior to your appointment.
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When To See An Optometrist
You should see an optometrist at least once a year for an annual checkup and any time you experience eye health problems. Optometrists are the first line of defense when dealing with eye conditions.
They are primary health care professionals, so they provide routine care and begin the process of treating specific problems just like your family doctor or primary general practitioner. Optometrists solve most vision health problems, but if they cannot, theyll refer patients to an ophthalmologist.
What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist? An optometrist treats basic eye health issues, whereas ophthalmologists treat more advanced issues.
Regular Eye Exams Are Important
All people with diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy develops over time and often goes unnoticed until vision loss occurs.
Following your diabetes ABCDEs and getting your eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist or optometrist are crucial to prevent vision loss or keep it from getting worse.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, very effective treatments are available. Your eye-care specialist will explain these to you.
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How To Prevent Eye Problems
Control your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar increases your chance of having eye problems.
High blood sugar can also cause blurred vision that is not related to diabetic retinopathy. This kind of blurred vision is caused by having too much sugar and water in the lens of the eye, which is in front of the retina.
- Blood pressure less than 140/90 is a good goal for people with diabetes. Your provider may tell you that your pressure needs to be lower than 140/90.
- Have your blood pressure checked often and at least twice each year.
- If you take medicines to control your blood pressure, take them as your doctor instructs.
Control your cholesterol levels:
- Abnormal cholesterol levels can also lead to diabetic retinopathy.
- Your provider may prescribe medicines to help lower your LDL and triglycerides. Take the medicines as directed.
Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, ask your provider.
If you already have eye problems, ask your provider if you should avoid exercises that can strain the blood vessels in your eyes. Exercises that may make eye problems worse include:
- Weight lifting and other exercises that make you strain
- High-impact exercise, such as football or hockey
Diagnosis Of Diabetic Retinopathy
Once the entire diabetic eye exam is complete and the eye doctor has a full picture of your eye health and diabetic condition, a diagnosis can be provided. Based on this, your eye doctor will recommend any preventative measures that can be taken to avoid damage and where necessary, various treatment methods will be discussed. Certain medicine and procedures can be administered by your eye doctor in his office. Please speak to your eye doctor about prevention and treatment possibilities.
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Why Do I Need An Eye Doctor
Unfortunately, people living with diabetes are at a higher risk for vision complications. During an eye exam, the eye doctor can diagnose eye-related disease even before you have symptoms. The sooner you catch any of these complications, the sooner you can treat them and prevent them from getting worse.
People living with diabetes are at a higher risk for vision complications. The most common diabetes-related eye conditions are:
- Retinopathy: Swelling, leakage, and bleeding in the blood vessels of your eyes retina that can cause blindness if left undetected or untreated
- Macular edema: Swelling and fluid build-up in the macula of your eye, often coincides with retinopathy, and can cause severe vision loss if left untreated
- Cataracts: Cloudiness in the lens of your eye that can cause vision loss
- Glaucoma: Increased fluid pressure in your eyes that can cause vision loss and blindness if not treated
- Dry eye: Blurred vision, excessive watering because of chronic dryness,stinging and burning in your eyes resulting from elevated blood glucose levels, aging, and many common prescription and non-prescription medications
When Do I Need A Diabetic Eye Exam
According to the American Diabetes Association , people with diabetes should follow strict precautions to ensure ongoing eye health:
Adults with Type 1 diabetes should schedule an eye exam within five years of their diagnosis and every year thereafter.
Adults with Type 2 diabetes should schedule an exam as soon after their diagnosis as possible.
When possible, women with diabetes who are planning to get pregnant should consult with their eye doctor beforehand. An eye exam should also be scheduled within the first three months of pregnancy. Another exam should be scheduled a year after giving birth.
After an initial exam, the ADA recommends getting annual diabetic exams to monitor the health of your eyes. Its important to specifically schedule a diabetic eye exam a typical routine eye exam for people with no health problems may not focus enough on the specific needs of a diabetic patient.
Depending on the findings of your diabetic eye exam, your optometrist or ophthalmologist may recommend more frequent exams or may refer you to a retinal specialist.
The eyes can be among the first parts of your body affected by diabetes. But maintaining a regular routine of diabetic eye exams will ensure any problems are diagnosed and treated early to protect your eyesight.
Page published on Saturday, February 29, 2020
Page updated on Tuesday, March 15, 2022
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What Are The Symptoms Of Diabetic Retinopathy
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy usually dont have any symptoms. Some people notice changes in their vision, like trouble reading or seeing faraway objects. These changes may come and go.
In later stages of the disease, blood vessels in the retina start to bleed into the vitreous . If this happens, you may see dark, floating spots or streaks that look like cobwebs. Sometimes, the spots clear up on their own but its important to get treatment right away. Without treatment, scars can form in the back of the eye. Blood vessels may also start to bleed again, or the bleeding may get worse.
Diabetes And Vision Loss
Get a dilated eye exam at least once a year to protect your eyesight.
Diabetes can damage your eyes over time and cause vision loss, even blindness. The good news is managing your diabetes and getting regular eye exams can help prevent vision problems and stop them from getting worse.
Eye diseases that can affect people with diabetes include diabetic retinopathy, macular edema , cataracts, and glaucoma. All can lead to vision loss, but early diagnosis and treatment can go a long way toward protecting your eyesight.
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What Does A Diabetic Eye Exam Involve
Each person’s condition is unique and therefore the length and components of a diabetic eye exam depends on what the eye doctor feels is important for your eye health. One who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes will have a different eye exam than a person who has had diabetes for a very long time and has already begun to show signs of diabetic retinopathy. Someone who has already been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy will most likely have a longer eye exam which could also include treatment in the office provided by your eye doctor.
A diabetic eye exam includes tests which check for:
- Changes in vision
- Diabetic retinopathy – changes at the back of the eyes due to diabetes
- Diabetic macular edema – when leaking fluids cause swelling of the macula which is the part of the retina responsible for central vision
Why Choose Ohio State For Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment
Diabetes affects over 34.2 million people in the United States, with diabetic retinopathy being one of the leading causes of blindness. At The Ohio State University Havener Eye Institute, its important to us to approach this head-on, combining state-of-the-art treatment with personalized eye care for every patient. Our retinal specialists have been trained at world-renowned institutions across the country, making our institute one of the top eye care facilities in the nation.
The Robinson Advanced Imaging Center provides our patients access to the most advanced ophthalmic imaging equipment available, including fundus photography, fluorescein angiography, spectral domain optical coherence tomography and ophthalmic sonography. All of these are critical in monitoring the progression and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
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Ophthalmologists Eye Surgeons And Optometrists Located In Bellmore Great Neck Huntington And Little Neck New York
If you have diabetes and experience eye pain, vision changes, or other unpleasant symptoms, see the caring team at Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts. They can complete a diabetic eye exam to detect and treat eye diseases and prevent blindness. Call the office nearest you in Bellmore, Great Neck, Huntington, or Little Neck, New York, to schedule an appointment or book one online.
What Are Common Diabetic Eye Conditions
Common diabetes eye conditions include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Diabetes-related eye problems often show up when high blood sugar levels are left untreated. These conditions damage the blood vessels in your eyes.
More than 40% of people with diabetes have some type of eye disease. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits, including eating healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise, can help control your blood sugar and reduce your risk of developing eye problems.
Eye diseases related to diabetes often develop without noticeable eye pain or vision problems, so routine diabetic eye exams are necessary. If you have diabetes, getting your eyes examined at least once a year can prevent permanent eye damage.
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Diabetes And Your Eyes
The best way to handle eye problems related to diabetes is through early detection of retinal abnormalities, regular monitoring, and prompt treatment. Early detection and treatment typically begin with the retinal exam.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with type 1 diabetes have their first eye exam within the first five years after diagnosis. If you have type 2 diabetes, the ADA recommends that you have your first eye exam shortly after you receive a diagnosis. This is because type 2 diabetes often goes undetected and undiagnosed for years. Retinopathy may have already begun during that time. An eye exam will help your doctor determine if you already have damage.
The ADA recommends you have an eye exam each year after your first exam. If you wear glasses or contacts, you probably need an annual eye exam to keep your prescription up to date. During that exam, your doctor will conduct a few minor tests to see if your vision has changed as a result of diabetes.
You may develop retinopathy and find that your symptoms dont progress or stall entirely. If that happens, the likelihood youll be monitoring your eyes for changes for the rest of your life is high. If your doctor diagnoses you with retinopathy and treats you for it, they may request exams several times per year. The number of eye exams you need each year will depend largely on the severity of the retinopathy.