Diabetic patients are at higher risk for ocular complications. In order to monitor for these complications, our Eye Doctors recommend an annual ocular health examination with dilation (eye drops are used to hold open the pupil of the eye to allow for detailed examination of the eyes internal structures – these drops last for 4-6 hours. A patient with dilated pupils will be more comfortable with sunglasses if outdoors and may benefit from having to drive them home from the appointment). As with any medically necessary service, AHC covers monitoring diabetic eye concerns for patients of all ages.
Ocular Complications from Diabetes can include:
Diabetic Retinopathy: High blood sugar can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye called diabetic retinopathy. This results in bleeding and leaking out of these blood vessels into the retinal tissue. It’s possible for this bleeding to be detected during a comprehensive eye examination before diabetes has been diagnosed by a medical doctor. In early stages this bleeding will not cause damage to vision but requires careful monitoring for any progression. Your optometrist can assess the stability and health of the retinal blood vessels during a dilated exam of the retina. It requires eye drops in the clinic that dilate your pupil open wide to allow a more complete view of the retina. Our optometrists communicate with your family physician to address blood sugar levels if any diabetic retinopathy is noted.
Continuing retinopathy can lead to new blood vessel growth in the retina. This is a progression in diabetic eye disease that requires referral to an ophthalmologist.
Macular Edema: Your optometrist will also be monitoring for macular edema, a swelling of the central area of the retina and vision. This requires prompt referral to an ophthalmologist for treatment. The success of treatment is higher the earlier macular edema is detected so routine monitoring is extremely important.
Glaucoma Risk: Patients with diabetes are at higher risk for glaucoma, an eye disease that can be present for a long time without symptoms and can only be detected in a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist. Diabetics often have earlier and more swiftly progressing cataracts.
Cataracts: While most patients will develop cataracts in a normal life span, diabetes often develop cataracts at a younger age. Your Optometrist will monitor for changes in the lens of the eye known as Cataracts.