What Is a Diabetic Eye Exam?
Diabetes is a disease that impairs the body’s ability to produce the insulin hormone and leads to elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels can increase your risk for an array of eye problems including blurry vision, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Often, diabetes damages the small blood vessels in your retina, or the back of the eye. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy develops when blood vessels in the eye are exposed to high blood glucose levels for a prolonged period of time. This weakens the walls of the blood vessels in the eyes. The longer a person has had diabetes and the greater his/her exposure to high blood glucose, the higher his/her risk of having this condition.
“Diabetic eye disease, when caught in time, is no longer a blinding condition. Nowadays, with early detection and prompt treatment, we can prevent vision loss and in some cases, are able to reverse some of the diabetic changes in the retina. But what we like to do, at Austin Retina, is help educate our patients on what diabetes is and how it affects their vision,” explains Dr. Robert W. Wong. “By working together with the primary care physician, endocrinologist and the patient themselves, we find strategies to improve blood sugar and blood pressure control. These two risk factors, among others, are things our patients have the ability to control. And with guidance, our goal is to keep them seeing well and living healthier lives.”
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to get regular eye exams, so your doctor can detect problems like diabetic retinopathy early, preserve your eye health and protect your vision.
What is a diabetic eye exam?
Anyone with diabetes is encouraged to get regular eye exams. This allows your ophthalmologist to look for changes in the blood vessels of the retina that may indicate diabetic retinopathy. Here is what you can expect during a diabetic eye exam:
- Your ophthalmologist will ask you about your medical and vision history.
- Next, you will read an eye chart.
- The doctor will then examine the retina in the back or your eye using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope.
- Often, your doctor will administer drops to dilate your pupils and use a special light called a slit lamp to view the retina.
- A test called fluorescein angiography may be used to reveal changes in the structure and function of the retinal blood vessels. For this test, your doctor will inject a fluorescent yellow dye into one of your veins and photograph your retina as the dye outlines the blood vessels.
- During a diabetic eye exam, your doctor will also check your eyes for cataracts and glaucoma.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, the experienced eye care specialists at Austin Retina Associates can help. We are skilled in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy in Austin. Call at 800-252-8259 to schedule an initial consultation.
Patients with diabetes are vulnerable to several serious eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma. If left undetected or untreated, diabetic eye conditions can lead to poor vision or even permanent vision loss. However, with early detection, treatment, and proper blood sugar management, patients with diabetes can enjoy healthy vision for many years. Diabetic eye exams play a crucial role in the early detection of these conditions.
If you have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it’s important that you see a diabetic eye specialist within five years of your diagnosis. If you have type 2 diabetes, you should schedule an appointment with a diabetic eye specialist as soon as you have been diagnosed. After your initial diabetic eye exam, plan to see your diabetic eye specialist for an eye exam at least once a year. If you start to experience symptoms such as blurry vision, flashes or floaters in your vision, then schedule an appointment with your diabetic eye specialist as soon as possible.
Diabetic eye specialists provide diagnostic eye exams using optical coherence tomography, fluorescein angiography, and fundus photography. These diagnostic tests help diabetic eye specialists capture very precise details of your eye so that your doctor can determine the presence and/or severity of various retinal and macular problems.
Diabetic eye specialists also provide several life-saving treatment options, including intraocular injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications, which are used to prevent the development of abnormal blood vessels and leakage. Diabetic eye specialists may also perform a type of laser surgery known as photocoagulation, which is commonly used for patients with diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema.
A diabetic eye exam usually takes 1-2 hours to complete, although some visits that involve additional retinal imaging or treatment may be longer.
The cost of a diabetic eye exam depends on your insurance coverage. Although insurance plans often do not include coverage for many vision exams, diabetic eye exams are considered a medical necessity and are typically covered by most insurance providers and plans. Check with your insurance provider for the exact details of your coverage. There are also financial assistance programs that can help mitigate the cost of a diabetic eye exam.