Annual eye exams are an important part of staying healthy. This is especially true if you have diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people over 40, according to UVA Health optometrist Evan Kaufman, OD. Even if you can see clearly, eye exams help detect conditions that may not cause symptoms, but can result in serious damage to your vision if they go undetected.
Why Do Diabetics Need Annual Eye Exams?
Diabetes may affect the blood vessels in your eyes, leading to diseases that put your vision at risk. Your risk of these eye conditions is higher if you have diabetes:
- Diabetic retinopathy
If caught early, many eye conditions are treatable. However, having your eyes checked by your regular doctor or an optician is not enough. Only optometrists and ophthalmologists can detect signs of diabetic eye complications by doing a thorough diabetic eye exam.
What Is a Diabetic Eye Exam?
During a diabetic eye exam, your doctor will assess the health of your eyes by looking at your cornea, lens, retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels in the back of your eyes. Traditionally, this required your doctor to place drops in your eyes to dilate (widen) your pupils. Today, there is new technology that allows doctors to see inside of your eyes without dilation. During a diabetic eye exam, your doctor may also do a vision screening to determine how well you see at various distances and measure the pressure of the fluid in the eye.
When Should You See an Eye Doctor?
Problems with your eyes may signal a serious health condition.
The American Diabetes Association recommends yearly eye exams for anyone with diabetes. You should also schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if you experience any of the following vision problems:
- Blurry or double vision
- Difficulty reading or focusing
- Seeing spots or floaters
- Eye pain or pressure
- Dark or empty areas in your line of vision
- Trouble seeing things to the side
Think of an annual eye exam like your annual preventative appointment with your primary care provider. The exam helps you manage and maintain your health, even if you don’t have any particular issues that you're aware of.
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