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Quality Health Care and You - Diabetes

Eye Examination for Diabetics

What it is

At a complete eye exam, called a dilated eye exam, the eye doctor widens the pupil of the eye with eye drops to allow a closer look at the inside of the eye. This exam may not be part of an eye exam for a new pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses. Be sure to ask your eye doctor for a dilated eye exam.

How it Relates to Diabetes

Diabetes that isn't controlled may cause blindness. High blood glucose and high blood pressure cause small blood vessels to swell and leak liquid into the retina of the eye, blurring the vision. This can eventually lead to blindness. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop cataracts - a clouding of the eye's lens, and glaucoma - optic nerve damage.

The Quality Standard - How to Know You're Okay

Have a dilated eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist at least once a year. To have this kind of exam, your doctor will need to put drops in your eyes and wait while your pupil dilates – or gets big – to see the back of the eye (the retina). He or she will be able to see whether there is a sign of damage due to diabetes.

What You Can Do

The most important thing to protect your vision when you have diabetes is to keep your sugar in control. Be sure to have a dilated eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist once a year. Remember, it's not enough to have your eyes checked for glasses or contacts, or to have a regular doctor look at your eyes. Also, if you have a change in your vision, see your eye care doctor right away, even if it's not time for your regular check up.

To Learn More

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This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Dec 07, 2012

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Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University

Clinical Nurse Specialist
Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Case Western Reserve University