Healthy Living

Why Annual Eye Exams Are Vital to Detect Diabetic Eye Diseases

Why Annual Eye Exams Are Vital to Detect Diabetic Eye Diseases

Annual eye exams for diabetics are vital to protect their eyesight, especially because diabetes is one of the leading causes for eye diseases for patients between the ages of 40 and 60. 

Most people believe that diabetes only affects the patient’s blood sugar levels, without considering the fact that hyperglycemia can affect other areas in the body. In reality, untreated diabetes, and sometimes even treated, can affect other areas of the body, including the eyes. Diabetes can increase the risk for eye diseases, including glaucoma and cataracts. However, while these diseases can develop naturally for non-diabetics, the most dangerous eye condition that diabetes patients are exposed to is diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is characterized by the damage to the patient’s retinal blood vessels. The retina is the part of the eye located on the back of the eyeball, and it is very sensitive to light. As the blood vessels decay and the damage from retinopathy progresses, the patient begins to slowly lose their vision. At first, their eyesight may become blurry and then start to disappear entirely.  This condition can happen with both types of diabetes, and the longer a person has diabetes, the higher their probability of suffering from retinopathy.

For this reason, adopting certain healthy lifestyle habits and consistently going to an ophthalmologist are vital when preventing diabetic eye diseases.

Diabetic eye diseases are preventable, and it is usually up to the patient to protect themselves from these conditions. "Diabetic eye disease is preventable, and you can take steps to slow it down or even reverse it by taking care of your diabetes, your blood pressure, and your cholesterol," said Dr. Malav Joshi, an ophthalmologist at the Krieger Eye Institute in Baltimore, in a LifeBridge Health news release.

Also, a timely dilated eye exam can help doctors to detect problems early on, before there is any significant damage to the patient’s vision and when they can be treated with both lifestyle changes and medication.  It goes without saying, early detection will prevent any serious damage that will eventually evolve into cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic macular edema, and diabetic retinopathy. For this reason, it’s important that diabetic patients have a dilated eye exam at least every 1 to 2 years.

It’s also important that these tests are conducted by an ophthalmologist specialized in diabetic care because they will likely have the equipment to check the back of the eye much better than a regular physician. Also, an optometrist can perform screening tests to detect diabetic eye diseases, though patients will have to be referred to an ophthalmologist if any irregularities are discovered.