A diabetic eye exam is very important for diabetics, as vision problems and their complications often occur among people with diabetes.
High blood sugar and high blood pressure directly affect the eyes and their retinal elements, vitreous fluid, eye lenses, and optic nerves.
The retina is made up of very small blood vessels, which can be damaged by hyperglycemia. Therefore, specialized medical examinations are the only ones that can detect in time the first signs of vision complications caused by diabetes.
Vision problems caused by diabetes can be detected in tests performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. A regular medical check-up by your family doctor, when the eyes are not dilated, can never replace a specialized examination.
Diabetic patients have multiple biochemical changes in the lens, so the risk of cataracts is between 2-4 times higher than in non-diabetic patients, and in diabetics under the age of 40, this risk can be 15-25 times higher.
The main medical tests required for people with diabetes are
- Visual acuity testing. This medical check-up measures the eye’s ability to focus and observe details at a distance and near, helping to detect the first signs of vision loss and other eye conditions.
- Ophthalmoscopy and fundus examination. These two tests allow the doctor to observe the back of the eyes and other inaccessible structures of the eyes. Thus, a common disease can be diagnosed in diabetes – cataracts, changes in the retina and other vision disorders.
- Gonioscopy. It is used to observe the drainage area of the eye (drainage angle), more precisely if it is closed or open. This medical examination will be performed by the ophthalmologist when the specialist suspects that the diabetic patient may suffer from glaucoma, a group of eye diseases caused by damage to the optic nerves, which can lead to blindness (blindness).
- Tonometry. This test measures intraocular pressure (inside the eye) and is useful in the early detection of glaucoma, a fairly common vision disorder in diabetes.
The ophthalmologist may also recommend to diabetics to perform fluorescein angiography, a useful test to check and locate established bleeding in the retinal blood vessels, especially if there are symptoms such as blurred or distorted vision (clear signs of inflammation of the retina).
Photographing of the fundus of the eye can detect changes in the organs of vision in patients with diabetes who already suffer from diabetic retinopathy, especially among those who follow a specialized treatment in this regard. The ophthalmologist can compare the photos taken at different times, to monitor the progression of the disease and evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment already prescribed.
Early detection of vision problems in diabetes
Diabetic eye exam (annual or biannual) ensure the early detection of vision problems, thus considerably reducing the risk of irreversible vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, or cataracts, a condition that affects a significant number of diabetics.
In patients with diabetes in whom diabetic retinopathy has not been diagnosed, specialists recommend that medical monitoring be performed based on the following guidelines.
- People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes over the age of 10 should have an eye exam within 3-5 years after the diagnosis has been made and then every year. If there is no increased risk of developing vision problems, the ophthalmologist may extend the period between medical examinations to 2 or 3 years.
- People diagnosed with type 2 diabetes should have an eye exam as soon as they are diagnosed and then at least every year. If the doctor detects a low predisposition to eye diseases, he may recommend a period of 2-3 years.
- Women diagnosed with type 1 or 2 diabetes who want to give birth to a child should have a medical check-up before becoming pregnant (if possible) and then in the first trimester of pregnancy. The ophthalmologist will decide later if there is still a need for monitoring for retinopathy during pregnancy, based on the results of tests performed in the first three months.
- Women who develop gestational diabetes are not at increased risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, so they are not required to undergo a medical examination. In contrast, pregnant women with gestational diabetes are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, at which point they may develop retinopathy or other vision disorders, requiring regular medical screening.
Medical experts say that because of poor quality nutrition and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, cases of diabetes will double in the next two decades. This implies a mass illness of the population, which will be prone to many complications that affect the quality of life (vision problems, for example) and that endanger life.
Diabetic eye exam is one of the most important medical examinations that you need to take regularly to avoid any vision complications and have a normal life.