Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose, a form of sugar meant to be used by the body for energy to perform various bodily functions. As a result, this sugar accumulates in the bloodstream and causes one’s blood sugar level to rise to higher than normal levels. This can cause many complications throughout the body, especially in the eyes. Proper diabetic eye care involves comprehensive eye exams at least once a year in order to minimize the risk of diabetes related eye conditions going undetected and untreated.
Dr. Justin Michaels, in Lake Forest, CA states, “Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74. Between the years 2005 and 2008, 4.2 million diabetes patients in the United States developed a serious diabetes related eye condition called diabetic retinopathy. This is an eye condition in which high blood sugar levels cause blood vessels in the eye to begin leaking fluids or to become completely closed off. Without proper care, this condition can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. People with diabetes have also proven to be at increased risk of glaucoma and early development of cataracts. Despite this, 1 in 4 people with diabetes fail to follow their optometrist's recommendation to have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year, leading to irreversible loss of vision and other dire consequences.”
Since many diabetes related conditions show no symptoms until significant damage has already been done, early detection is essential. Early detection of diabetes related eye conditions is most successful for people who follow their eye doctor's recommendation to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year. This specialty eye exam consists of dilating your eye so that the pupil is enlarged, allowing your optometrist a wider window through which to inspect the retina for signs of retinopathy and other eye damage that could be caused by your diabetes.
The comprehensive exam also includes a tonometry test, in which a quick puff of air is blown into your eye or a pressure-sensitive tip is gently placed near or against it. This measures your internal eye fluid pressure. If your eye doctor detects that your internal eye fluid pressure is higher than normal, this may be an indication of glaucoma. Statistics show that early detection through a dilated eye exam, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up can reduce your risk of significant vision loss from these conditions by as much as 95%.
Although it is recommended to see your optometrist once a year for an annual check-up, there are a number of symptoms that you need to keep an eye out for that indicate that you should not wait for your annual appointment before seeing your eye doctor. Dr. Michaels explains, “If your vision becomes blurry, you are seeing double, or one or both of your eyes hurt, it is recommended that you call your eye doctor immediately. If your eyes get red and stay that way, you feel pressure in your eye, or you consistently see spots or floaters in your vision, these can also be symptoms of an underlying eye problem related to your diabetes.”