Should I have an eye exam if my blood sugar is high?

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William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Darn right you should! If your blood sugar is routinely high you could be at risk of losing your sight. Scary but true: the federal government’s 2011 diabetes fact sheet tells us that diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness for folks between the ages of 20-74. In fact, over 20,000 diabetics lose their sight each year, while as many as 4.2 million of us have some degree of damage to the eye from diabetes.

Everyone with diabetes should have an annual dilated eye exam (yup, the one where they put those stinging drops in your eyes and you can’t see straight for hours on end). The test lets the eye doctor look at the back of your eyeball to inspect it for early signs of trouble. Type-2s should have the exam as soon as they are diagnosed and Type-1s should have their first exam five years after diagnosis.

The reason for this is that by the time a Type-2 is diagnosed, the blood sugars have likely been elevated for some time, while the faster and more severe on-set of Type-1 ensures it is discovered close to when the problem starts.

Unlike, say, elective surgery, there is no reason to put off an eye exam if you are having some trouble with your blood sugars. There is nothing particularly risky about a dilated eye exam (so long as you aren’t trying to drive yourself home from it), and having elevated blood sugars in no way adds any risk.

If you have hyperglycemia or diabetes, then it would be prudent to have a complete eye exam and dilated-retinal exam by an ophthalmologist. High blood-sugar levels can cause retinopathy and can damage the retina over time. It is also important to control the high blood-sugar levels to decrease the progression of retinopathy.

Continue Learning about Diabetic Retinopathy (Eye Damage)

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.