Diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body. You’re probably familiar with diabetic foot – which is a result of vessel damage leading to diabetic neuropathy, causing foot numbness and sores – but diabetes can also lead to eye problems such as diabetic retinopathy. This tends to cause blurriness, difficulty distinguishing colors, and seeing dark areas in your field of vision.
Diabetic retinopathy may not present obvious symptoms in its early stages, but it can lead to blindness if left untreated. Let’s talk about what is involved in a diabetic eye exam and its importance in the maintenance and treatment of diabetes, possibly including diabetic retinopathy.
What Happens During a Diabetic Eye Exam?
An ophthalmologist can detect diabetic retinopathy during a comprehensive eye exam in which your pupils are dilated (enlarged).
The doctor will start by reviewing your medical history. During the exam, you can expect a vision test to check for problems like nearsightedness. Then, your ophthalmologist will administer eye drops to dilate your pupils, allowing a closer look into the underlying structures in your eyes.
Specifically, your eye doctor will check for the following:
- Signs of new blood vessels or scar tissue
- Abnormal blood vessels
- Swelling, fatty deposits, or blood in the retina
- Bleeding in the vitreous, which is the gel-like substance at the center of the eye
- Detached retina
- Abnormalities in the optic nerve
What Could an Eye Doctor Find in a Diabetes Patient?
If the doctor suspects that you may have diabetic retinopathy, you may be asked to undergo a fluorescein angiography. During this test, your doctor injects a special dye into a vein in your arm and then uses a special camera to take detailed pictures of the inner eye as the dye circulates through the blood vessels in your retina. These images will then be used to identify any damaged or leaking blood vessels.
Diabetic individuals are also at risk of developing glaucoma, which is when pressure is increasing in the eye. They can also easily develop cataracts, which can cause cloudy lenses. Your doctor will measure your eye pressure and look for any signs of cataracts as part of the diabetic eye exam.
Eye Doctor in Creve Coeur and Washington, Missouri
Because diabetic retinopathy does not tend to show any symptoms until it has become advanced and is therefore too late to control well, be sure to visit your eye doctor at least once a year if you have diabetes – even if you’re not experiencing vision problems. Early diagnosis, prompt treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can decrease your risk of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy by almost 100%.
Here in the greater St. Louis area, Dr. R. Joseph Olk is a board-certified ophthalmologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions specific to the retina, including diabetes-related vision conditions such as diabetic retinopathy. He is a member of our experienced medical team at Advanced Sight Center.
To schedule an appointment with us, call our Creve Coeur office at (314) 878-4228 or our Washington office at (636) 239-1650. You can also fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to being a key part of your overall medical healthcare team for a lifetime of visual health and wellness.