Diabetic Eye Exams
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you’re probably aware that having this disorder means your body doesn’t use and store sugar properly, and that can increase your risk of developing heart disease and other serious health conditions. What you may not have been warned about is your increased risk of developing sight-threatening eye conditions, including diabetic retinopathy. Getting a diabetic eye exam every year will give your eye doctor the best opportunity to detect diabetes-related eye diseases early, when treatment can slow or stop their progression and minimize any harmful effects.
What to Expect When You Get a Diabetic Eye Exam
From a patient’s perspective, a diabetic eye test is similar to other eye exams in many ways. It differs from other types of eye exams in that your eye care specialist will focus on the health of your retina and how well the blood vessels in your eyes are functioning.
Diabetic eye exams start with pupil dilation, which allows eye doctors to more closely examine the back of the eye where the retina is located. As with other eye exams, special eye drops are used to encourage the pupils to dilate. When your pupils are dilated, you’ll temporarily experience blurry vision and light sensitivity, but these side effects usually go away within a few hours.
Depending on the results of your retinal exam, your optometrist or ophthalmologist may recommend additional tests, such as:
This dye test is used to check for damage to the blood vessels that nourish the retina. When you have a fluorescein angiography, a special dye will be injected into your arm. Within seconds, the dye will make its way through your bloodstream to your eye, where it will highlight any blood vessel damage. Your eye specialist will use a special camera to take pictures of your eye’s blood vessels, making it easier to identify and evaluate any damage.
Optical Coherence Tomography
Commonly referred to as an OCT eye test or scan, optical coherence tomography is a type of imaging that creates pictures of cross-sections of your retina. OCT scans give eye doctors a clear view of fine details, including signs that blood vessels are leaking fluid that could endanger the retina.
The test that looks for signs of glaucoma involves using a special tool called a tonometer to measure eye pressure (intraocular pressure), which can be elevated due to diabetes-related fluid buildup. If you have a glaucoma test, your eye doctor will aim the tonometer at your open eye. The tonometer will then release a puff of air, and your eye’s response is used to calculate your intraocular pressure.
As with other eye exams, your diabetic eye screening will include a vision test that gauges how well you can see images at a distance. Typically, you’ll be asked to read letters large and small on an eye chart about 20 feet away. You’ll read rows of letters first with one eye, then the other, and your eye care specialist will record the smallest letters you can identify for each eye.
When a Diabetic Eye Exam Is Needed
There are three main types of diabetes, and the risk of vision impairment varies according to the type of diabetes you have:
- If you have type 1 diabetes, you should get a diabetic eye exam within five years of your diagnosis.
- For those with type 2 diabetes—the most common type—scheduling a diabetic eye test immediately after receiving the diagnosis is critical. This is because type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed well after the disease has progressed, and retinal damage may have occurred without any noticeable symptoms.
- If you’re pregnant and have diabetes, you should have a diabetic eye screening during the first three months of your pregnancy, then schedule another a year after giving birth.
Where to Schedule Your Diabetic Eye Exam in Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay residents who need diabetic eye exams can feel confident entrusting their eye care to the highly qualified optometrists at Florida Medical Clinic. We provide a full spectrum of optometry services, from routine and specialized vision screenings to medical management of various eye conditions. Contact us today for more information, or use our online form to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations in the Tampa Bay area.
Proudly Serving: Land O’ Lakes, and North Tampa.