Why is it important for people with diabetes to see an eye specialist?

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Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure (BP) as close to normal as you can.

Your eye care professional may suggest laser treatment, which is when a light beam is aimed into the retina of the damaged eye. The beam closes off leaking blood vessels. It may stop blood and fluid from leaking into the vitreous. Laser treatment may slow the loss of sight.

If a lot of blood has leaked into your vitreous and your sight is poor, your eye care professional might suggest your having a surgery, called a vitrectomy, which removes blood and fluid from the vitreous of your eye. Then, clean fluid is put back into the eye. The surgery can improve your eyesight.

This answer is based on source information from  the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Dr. Cameron G. Javid, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the 25-65 age group in the U.S. It can be successfully treated, especially if caught early. Annual retinal exams are recommended if you are diabetic.

Dr. Louis B. Cantor, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

Every individual with diabetes should have an eye exam at least once a year and at any time that they note any unusual symptoms in their vision to reduce risk of permanent vision loss.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

It's important for people with diabetes to see an eye specialist once a year to check for eye complications that diabetes can cause. High blood sugar, as well as high blood pressure, can damage your eyes in several ways. It can hurt your retina, the vitreous (a jelly-like fluid that fills the back of the eye), the lens and the optic nerve, which sends vision signals to your brain. Your retinas have tiny blood vessels, and having high blood sugar over a long period of time can damage these sensitive vessels.

If you believe that diabetes has affected the retinas of your eyes, you need to seek help immediately. Over time, untreated retinal damage from diabetes can lead to permanent vision loss or total blindness. In some cases, treatment with lasers to close off leaking blood vessels can stop blood from getting into the vitreous and allow light to reach your retina. In other cases, a vitrectomy (surgical removal of blood and fluid from the vitreous) may be recommended.

Call your doctor at the first sign of any vision problems, particular if they come on suddenly. Signs to watch for include blurry or double vision, flashing lights or blank spots, floating spots, pain or pressure in one or both eyes, or trouble seeing out of the corners of your eyes. Regular visits to an eye care professional can pick up early signs of these complications when they are most treatable.

Ophthalmologists have special tools that allow them to look into the back of the eyeball where the changes of diabetes occur. If they are found early they can be treated with better results for the patient.

Dr. Manvi P. Maker
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

Diabetic retinopathy a leading cause of blindness in American adults. 

In some forms of diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels leak fluid and cause swelling in the retina (a layer that is very important to good vision). In other forms of retinopathy, new blood vessels actually grow on the retinal surface

If you have diabetic retinopathy, you may not notice any changes in your vision initially. But with time, the diabetic retinopathy may become more severe and lead to loss of vision. Usually, these changes happen in both eyes, though one eye may be more severely affected that the other.

Therefore, it is important to for all diabetics to have full dilated eye exams at least once a year by an ophthalmologist, and to receive treatment in a timely fashion.

For anyone with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, eye care is an important priority. By keeping your blood glucose level close to normal, you can lower your risk for some of the long-term effects of diabetes and preserve your eyesight. An eye specialist monitors changes in your eyes, especially those changes associated with diabetes. He or she then determines what those changes mean and how they should be treated. For example, changes in the tiny blood vessels that supply your retina—the part of the eye that detects light and thus visual images—could be an early sign of diabetic retinopathy. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.

Although your diabetes care provider will look at your eyes during the course of your yearly physical examination, you also need to have them more thoroughly examined by a trained eye specialist. Your eyes need to be dilated for this exam. If you are 10 years of age or older and have type 1 diabetes, you should have a comprehensive examination 3 to 5 years after you are diagnosed with diabetes and yearly thereafter. If you are an adult with type 2 diabetes, you should have a comprehensive eye and visual exam conducted by an eye doctor when you are diagnosed and every year thereafter—even if your vision is fine. Also, if you notice any changes in your vision or you are planning a pregnancy, you should be examined.

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.