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Care for your eyes; prevent diabetic eye disease with a yearly eye exam

Care for your eyes; prevent diabetic eye disease with a yearly eye exam
Diabetes can impact a person’s heart, kidneys and nerves. But less known is the impact diabetes can have on vision and the health of the eyes.

Diabetic patients most often develop conditions like diabetic retinopathy, macular edema, cataracts and glaucoma. These conditions can occur in patients with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher the chances are of developing these conditions.

“With Type 1 diabetes, it is recommended to start yearly eye exams within five years of diagnosis while Type 2 is recommended to start yearly eye exams right after diagnosis,” said Amie Childress, RN, Ophthalmology and Optometry.

If an eye exam reveals symptoms of a diabetic eye conditions and the patient has not been diagnosed with diabetes, they will be referred back to their primary care provider for a diagnosis.

“If they start to have any changes in vision or eye pain, patients should start with their local optometrist for an exam who can then refer them to the appropriate ophthalmologist if needed,” said Andrew Hampton, RN, Ophthalmology and Optometry.

A yearly eye exam is critical to catching often overlooked symptoms. “An ophthalmologist will diagnose diabetic retinopathy during a full, dilated eye exam,” said Childress. “Often there are no early signs of diabetic eye disease and damage can start occurring before vision is affected.”

A physician will update a patient’s vision and medical chart, and available A1C charts, at a yearly exam.

“During the exam, we measure the pressures in the eyes, dilate the pupils, check depth perception and eye movement,” said Childress. “We also examine the back of the eye for signs of diabetic retinopathy or use more testing such as a visual field test or diagnostic imaging.”

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetic patients and occurs when blood vessels in the retina swell and leak fluid. Floaters and spots cloud a patient’s vision, but many do not realize they have this condition until they lose their vision.

Symptoms include blurry vision, frequent changes in vision, dark areas in vision or vision loss, poor color vision, spots and flashes of light. If a patient notices these symptoms in their vision, they should schedule an eye exam.

“Patients with diabetes are about twice as likely to develop glaucoma or cataracts compared to patients without diabetes,” said Hampton. “The best thing diabetic patients can do to protect their eyes is to manage their diabetes as recommended and to quit smoking if they smoke.”

Diabetic patients should schedule an eye exam if they are planning a pregnancy, or in the first three months of a pregnancy, to track the health of their eyes. A physician may request more visits or refer a patient to a specialist if their eye disease progresses. To treat these conditions, a provider may use medications like eye drops or injections. They may also use laser treatments, surgery, or a combination of treatments.

A yearly eye exam is the best method for identifying the signs of diabetic eye disease early. Even if the patient is not diabetic, a yearly eye exam allows providers to track changes in your vision.

To schedule an eye exam, visit or call the Carle Health Eye Department at (217) 902-3937.

Categories: Staying Healthy

Tags: Diabetes, Diabetic, Endocrinology, Exam, Eye, Ophthalmology, Retinopathy