Diabetic Eye Examination and Diabetic Retinopathy

Informative Video from the Joslin Diabetes Center

Diabetes is the #1 Cause of Preventable Blindness in the U.S. Most of the time there are NO symptoms of diabetic eye problems.  You can have diabetic retinopathy and not even know it.  Many patients can still have fairly good vision even with advanced stages of diabetic eye disease (diabetic retinopathy).   

Diabetic retinopathy is a term used for pathology (bleeding, fluid build up and/or abnormal blood vessel growth) in the nerve lining of the inside of the eye that we use for our vision – called the Retina.

This kind of diabetic pathology is caused when elevated blood glucose (blood sugar) damages the blood vessels in the retina – causing bleeding and fluid build up in and around the retina.  Blood sugar is monitored via blood glucose testing and Glycosylated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) testing (which tells the primary care doctor the average blood glucose in someone’s blood for the past few months – not just the glucose reading on the day of the testing).

Therefore, it is essential for diabetics to have a comprehensive eye examination at least every 12 months – even if their blood sugar is under control. A comprehensive examination should include a dilated eye exam with retinal imaging (digital retinal photography) to document the presence or absence of any diabetic retinopathy.  Retinal photography is essential to pick up and document any subtle diabetic changes in the retina from year to year.

The sooner any diabetic eye problems are diagnosed and treated, the lower the risk of visual loss and/or blindness from diabetic related complications.

So, if you are diabetic or know anyone who is diabetic – a yearly dilated diabetic eye exam is essential for prevention of vision loss from diabetes.

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