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How Eye Exams Are Different When You Have Diabetes

When it comes to casting a wide net over your life, diabetes certainly qualifies. More than 38 million Americans have this chronic condition, which heightens their risks for some very unwelcome health complications. From lower limb ulcers to vision loss, diabetes can affect many different areas of your health, which means you need a higher standard of care.

As part of this higher standard, it’s important that you come see us regularly for eye exams. Here at Vision and Ortho-K Center, Dr. Curtis Frank and the team are well-versed in tracking diabetic eye diseases, with an eye toward early intervention to preserve your vision.

So, if you have diabetes, here are some important goals that we can accomplish during your eye exam.

Checking your eyesight

Much of your eye exam will follow normal protocols in terms of evaluating your vision. We perform standard eye tests to determine whether you have a refractory issue that’s affecting your ability to see clearly. Or, if you already had an issue like astigmatism, nearsightedness, or farsightedness, we check whether these have changed.

With these tests completed, we then turn our attention to potential issues that are commonly associated with diabetes.

Checking the vascular health of your eye

The reason why diabetes affects your vision is because the disease can damage sensitive blood vessels in your eyes. When you have uncontrolled diabetes, the level of glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream is higher than normal much of the time, which can wreak havoc on your blood vessels over time.

Now consider how delicate the blood vessels in your eyes are, especially in your retina. If high glucose damages these tiny blood vessels, they can leak, which can lead to diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. With these two conditions, your vision can become increasingly impaired.

Another problem arises if your retina grows new blood vessels as a way to respond to the damaged vessels. This proliferation of weaker blood vessels can lead to bleeding and scarring in your retina that can interfere with your vision.

So, a top priority during your diabetic eye exam is to evaluate the health of the blood vessels that service your retina. 

What to expect during your diabetic eye exam

We’ve discussed why it’s important to see us regularly for eye exams when you have diabetes, so now let’s look at what we do during these exams, which includes:

Pupil dilation

We use eye drops that dilate your pupil so we can get a better look at the inner structures of your eye.

Fluorescein angiography

We inject a dye into your bloodstream that can highlight any damage in the blood vessels in your eyes.

Optical coherence tomography

We take specialized images of cross sections of your retinal tissues.

Glaucoma testing

While we haven’t mentioned glaucoma, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop this condition. With glaucoma, the pressure inside your eye increases, which can damage your optic nerve and lead to blindness. So, during your eye exam, we check the pressure inside your eye.

What each of these tests is designed to do is allow us to spot the early signs of a problem so that we can step in to preserve your vision. 

So, if you haven’t scheduled your annual diabetic eye exam yet, it’s time to do so now. To get started, please schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Boston or Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts.

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