Diabetic Eye Exam
Diabetes is a chronic condition that results in high blood sugar levels, either because the body cannot properly process glucose, or because the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Diabetics are at an increased risk of eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Because diabetics are prone to certain eye diseases, it is essential that they undergo regular diabetic eye exams. Eye exams are a valuable diagnostic tool that allow eye diseases to be diagnosed while they are still in their early stages. Here, optometrists from GW Eye Associates, who serve La Jolla, CA, Carmel Valley, CA, San Diego, CA, and surrounding areas, prepare individuals for what to expect from a diabetic eye exam.
Are Diabetic Eye Exams Different than a Regular Eye Exam?
Diabetic eye exams are similar to any other comprehensive eye exam. These exams are usually completed in about one hour and should not cause any discomfort, other than possible irritation from having the pupils dilated. The only difference between a diabetic eye exam and a regular eye exam is that the eye doctor pays special attention to the health of the retina and the integrity of the blood vessels in the eyes, since these are most vulnerable to damage from uncontrolled diabetes.
The pupils must be dilated during a diabetic eye exam, because this allows the eye doctor to closely examine the inner eye structure, including the retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels at the back of the eye. The pupils are dilated through the use of special eye drops, which take effect within around 30 minutes. While the pupils are dilated the vision may be blurry and the eyes may be extra sensitive to light. These side effects should resolve within a few hours.
A diabetic eye exam may include a fluorescein angiography, which is a test that allows for the detection of damaged blood vessels. To perform this exam a special dye is injected into the arm. The dye travels to the eyes through the bloodstream and highlights any vessel damage.
Optical Coherence Tomography
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging test that allows eye doctors to view the fine details of the retina. The test is completely non-invasive. The eyes are simply scanned while the patient focuses on a target. This imaging can detect if there is any thinning or thickening in the blood vessels, as well as if the blood vessels are leaking fluid.
Diabetes increases the risk of glaucoma, which is one of the leading causes of vision loss. Glaucoma often does not produce any noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed to the point that permanent vision loss has occurred. It is important that a diabetic eye exam includes a glaucoma test, since early detection is key to preserving vision. To test for glaucoma a puff of air is aimed towards the open eye. A tonometer measures the intraocular pressure based on the eye’s response to the air. Increased intraocular pressure is a sign of glaucoma.
Just as with any other eye exam, a diabetic eye exam includes a vision test. A vision test measures the eye’s ability to focus on images both near and far. Each eye is tested separately to identify if there are any visual discrepancies between the two eyes.
Contact GW Eye Associates
Comprehensive eye exams are essential to preserving eye health and clear vision, especially for those who suffer from diabetes. If you are due for a comprehensive eye exam, we invite you to schedule an appointment at GW Eye Associates. To get started, send us a message online, or call (858) 454-4699 at your earliest convenience.