Diabetic eye exams are important because Diabetes is a whole body disease that can affect your eye health. Diabetic Retinopathy, cataracts, and glasses prescription changes can all be affects of diabetes. If you have diabetes you should have an annual diabetic eye exam to prevent, test and treat Diabetic Retinopathy as some features cannot be seen with a basic exam.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

The high blood sugars associated with Diabetes can damage blood vessels in the retina, leading to a condition called Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetic Retinopathy includes a variety of vascular problems within the eye, all of which may result in vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment

Although Diabetic Retinopathy is largely treatable, this treatment is not always successful. Early detection is important to limit vision loss. The best treatment is to prevent the onset as much as possible through good control of both blood sugar and blood pressure. It is important to realize, however, that diabetic retinopathy can occur in spite of excellent blood sugar control.

Diabetic Retinopathy Stages

There are two main stages of Diabetic Retinopathy: Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy(NPDR) and Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy(PDR).

NPDR (Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy) is the early stage of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can make the blood vessels leak, both fluid and blood. Because retinal vessels leak nutrients before reaching the retinal tissue that needs them, the retina can become ischemic, or oxygen starved. This can lead to tissue death. Retinal swelling can occur here, as well as swelling in the area of central vision, the macula. Treatment may be needed at this stage.

PDR(Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy) is the more advanced stage of diabetic eye disease. At this stage the retina has been so starved of oxygen it begins to grow new blood vessels. This is called neovascularization. These new vessels are weak, though, and often break and bleed. This can cause twisting and scarring of the retina, resulting in vision loss. PDR needs to be treated immediately and is very serious.

Diabetic Eye Exam

All people with diabetes should have a Diabetic Retinopathy eye exam once a year. More frequent visits may be necessary if Diabetic Retinopathy is present.

Learn more about eye exams.

Diabetes Eye Care FAQ’s

How can I tell if I have diabetic retinopathy?

Early stages of diabetic retinopathy are asymptomatic. Even some types of retinopathy requiring treatment are without symptoms. Annual eye exams are required to detect diabetic retinopathy early. If diabetic retinopathy is present, a variety of imaging tests are used to monitor the condition and assess the need for treatment.

How is diabetic retinopathy treated?

Treatment involves a variety of modalities, ranging from laser to the use of medications placed inside the eye.

Where can I get more information about diabetic retinopathy?

Follow this link to the American Academy of Ophthalmology information on Diabetes.