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Diabetic Eye Exam
One of the worst — and most common — side effects of diabetes is vision loss. The disease attacks the small blood vessels in the back of your eyes, called the retinas. When your retina becomes damaged, it’s called diabetic retinopathy. It’s absolutely vital that you get yearly diabetic eye exams when you have diabetes.
When you have this blood sugar disorder, you’re also at a greater risk of developing glaucoma. Too often, you won’t even notice the damage until it’s too late, which is why you must begin to get annual eye checkups as soon as you receive a diabetes diagnosis. As difficult as life can be with diabetes, it’s even more difficult if you’re also blind.
How Diabetes Affects Your Eyes
While you do have a higher risk of going blind if you have diabetes, it’s not certain. Most diabetes sufferers, in fact, merely develop minor vision disorders, especially when problems are discovered early and you manage your diabetes well. You’re about 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma than someone who doesn’t have diabetes. And the older you get, the higher your risk increases. You’re also at a 60 percent higher risk of developing cataracts.
Diabetic retinopathy is the umbrella term for all diabetes-related eye disease. The primary reason they occur is because high blood sugar levels affect your retina by creating tiny aneurysms that eventually leak blood. New blood vessels grow to replace the damaged ones, but they too weaken and leak. It’s these hemorrhages that cause permanent damage to your retina and lead to blindness.
Diabetes also can damage the cranial nerves that control eye movement, which can lead to double vision and other eye disorders. People with diabetes also are at a higher risk of developing infections because the disease targets your immune system. Conditions like eye styes and pink eye are more common among people with diabetes.
Control Diabetes to Reduce Risks
When your blood sugar fluctuates, so does your vision. The ups and downs in your blood sugar cause just as much havoc on your vision as the diabetes itself. It’s vital that you strive to keep your blood sugar markers as low as possible to prevent diabetic retinopathy and other eye disorders.
It’s also critical that you maintain superb hygiene practices for your eye health and your overall health in general. With a compromised autoimmune system, you are at a higher risk of infections. Rubbing your eyes without washing your hands, for example, can lead to dire consequences for your vision.
Visit a Specialist
The doctor who takes care of you to treat your diabetes most likely examines your eyes on every visit. While that’s useful, it’s often not enough. You also need to schedule regular diabetic eye exams with your ophthalmologist, who is a medical doctor trained in treating eye diseases.
Your eye doctor has the equipment, facilities and experience to provide you with the most appropriate and in-depth diabetic eye exams you need. Using the most current technology available to check the back of your eye, your ophthalmologist can do what a family doctor can’t. And while an optometrist may be able to check your eyes for problems related to your diabetes, you must see an ophthalmologist once you’ve been diagnosed with diabetic eye disease.
The Diabetic Eye Exam
As part of your routine diabetic eye exam — as well as during extra exams you may undergo when you have diabetes and are trying to reduce your risks of eye diseases — you read the Snellen chart, which is a chart of random letters of differing sizes. This allows your eye doctor to check your visual capabilities.
Then you’re asked to put your head back so the doctor can place eye drops in your eyes that dilate your pupils. Dilation allows your eye specialist to look at the back of your eyes. While not painful, you may feel a slight stinging from the drops, as well as a metallic taste in your mouth. Your ophthalmologist then relies on a magnifier and light to look at the back of your eyes to check for diabetic damage. In addition to your retina, the doctor examines your optic nerve and the blood vessels in the middle and front parts of your eyes.
The next step involves using the silt lamp to gauge the health of your eye’s surface. This too is a common step taken in routine eye exams. Finally, as your doctor is monitoring the effect of diabetes on your eyes, he may take some photographs of the various parts of your eye for further examination and to have for comparison on your next visit.
After the Exam
A thorough diabetic eye exam can take an hour or more, especially since it includes the wait time it takes for the eye drops to take full effect. While you can resume your normal activities, your vision may be blurry for up to six hours, so it’s best not to plan any detailed work after your exams. You should plan to have someone accompany you to the eye exam, since you won’t be able to drive for at least a few hours.
The eye drops also increase your eyes’ sensitivity to light. Bring dark wrap-around sunglasses to wear after you leave the eye doctor’s office if you have them. Otherwise, a disposable pair is provided. They prevent UV damage that can occur while your eyes are still dilated.
Consequences of Skipping Exams
If you know you have diabetes and don’t schedule diabetic eye exams, you’re risking your vision. You can develop permanent eye damage and not even realize it until it’s too late. Diabetes can lead to those really small leaks associated with diabetic retinopathy without causing you any significant symptoms. And the leaks can occur even if you are managing your diabetes perfectly. Leaking blood vessels can be corrected if caught early enough, so don’t skip your eye exam appointments.
Diabetes and eye care go hand in hand. You must control your blood sugar levels for periods up to three months in a row before your eye doctor can prescribe appropriate lenses to accommodate any vision loss you have. While your doctor may eventually refer you to an ophthalmologist for diabetic eye exams, you don’t have to wait. The earlier you get in the exam routine, the better chance you have of catching issues early and protecting your eyesight.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult eye doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified eye doctor can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about Diabetic Eye Exam in NYC? Would like to schedule an appointment with Manhattan Ophthalmologist or Optometrist, Dr. Saba Khodadadian of Manhattan Eye Specialists, please contact our office for consultation with Manhattan Eye doctor.
Dr. Saba Khodadadian, Optometrist (NYC Eye Doctor)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 533-4821