November is Diabetes Awareness Month and you may be thinking, ‘What do diabetic eye exams, or even just diabetes, have to do with my eyes?’
Our eyes are one of the most complex organs in our body and comprehensive eye exams can help detect certain medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hormone imbalance, and even brain tumors. We asked our award-winning optometrist what people need to know about diabetes prevention and management.
1. Can Diabetes Be Detected During an Eye Exam?
Yes, which is why regular, comprehensive eye exams are vital not only for those who wear glasses or contact lenses. Optometrists are critical, not only for diagnosing eye-related problems, but are essential in early detection of health concerns in the body.
2. Why Do They Check Your Eyes for Diabetes?
Diabetics have excess blood sugar and this damages your blood vessels. Your eyes contain some of the smallest blood vessels in your body. Did you know that the back of your eyes are the only place in your body where doctors can view your blood vessels?
A comprehensive eye exam, conducted by an optometrist, can lead to early detection of diabetes (type 1 and 2) and this can prevent damage to your eyes and stop vision loss.
Over the course of the next nine years, 6.4 million Canadians will be diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. One third of Canadians today already have diabetes, or pre-diabetes, and many don’t know it.
3. What Does a Diabetic Eye Exam Include?
Unlike a simple vision screening or sight test, which only assesses your refractive error, a comprehensive eye exam is a complete evaluation of the health of your eyes, which checks for vision threatening conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma, to name a few.
During a diabetic eye exam, your optometrist will use a special eyedrop that will dilate your pupils. This allows them to evaluate your retina and its blood vessels for any abnormalities.
4. How Long Does It Take for Diabetes to Damage Eyes?
Typically, it takes several years to develop diabetic eye disease but that doesn’t mean your eyes won’t be getting damaged during that time. If left undiagnosed and untreated, diabetes can result in eye damage long before symptoms appear. Diabetic eye disease, which results from high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye, can result in severe sight loss or even blindness at any stage. Higher blood sugar levels can result in diabetic eye disease at a faster rate.
5. What Are the Warning Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy?
Watch out for blurry, fluctuating or double vision, flashes or floaters, and any partial vision loss. These symptoms require immediate attention. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can include:
- Blurry vision
- Vision fluctuations
- Inability to see colors
- Floaters (colorless spots floating in your visual field)
- Deteriorating night vision
- Eye discomfort or pain
- Dark, shadowy areas in your visual field
- Double vision
“Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in Canada. People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age and are twice as likely to develop glaucoma. Its effect on the retina is the main threat to vision.”
6. Am I at Risk of Diabetic Retinopathy?
- Have had diabetes for several years
- Consistently have high blood sugar (blood glucose) levels
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol
- Are pregnant
- Are of Asian or Afro-Caribbean background
A Diabetic Eye Exam Could Save Your Life
We often take our eyes for granted, assuming they don’t need any care from us. As optometrists, we know the importance of caring for your eyes is just as much a priority as eating healthy, exercising, and taking care of your mental health.
Our eyes are complicated but delicate. Our optometrists can help in a number of ways, including providing preventative care.
Why trust our advice? Family-first, patient-centered care is our passion.
Why Real Eyes Optometry
Just like selecting any other type of health care professional, it is a personal choice that needs to work long-term for you and your family. You can bring your entire family to Real Eyes Optometry with confidence you will receive compassionate and courteous care with the highest levels of optometric service, expertise, and clinical knowledge.