The Importance of Diabetic Eye Exams

Diabetic eye disease is the number one cause of blindness and vision loss in working-age adults. People with diabetes are at risk of several conditions that, when detected early, can be treated to reduce vision loss.


Diabetic retinopathy affects 5.3 million Americans 18 years of age and older. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina, the light sensitive tissue in the back part of your eye, become damaged and leak resulting in blurred vision and vision loss.

Diabetics are also twice as likely to get cataracts and glaucoma than someone without the disease. Cataracts develop and cause your eye lens to become cloudy, interfering with your vision. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve which can also cause vision loss.

The longer someone has diabetes means a greater the likelihood that these complications could occur.

In early stages of diabetic eye disease, there are sometimes no indicators that there is a problem. There are no symptoms or pain. Vision can start to blur as the blood vessels weaken, which is why it is so important for diabetic patients to see their eye doctor regularly.

A dilated eye exam (or optomap® exam) can detect diabetic eye disease in the retina before vision loss occurs. The earlier the detection can mean a more positive outcome of treatment.

There are several treatments for diabetic retinopathy including laser eye surgery or  pharmaceutical injections that prevent fluid leakage that can improve vision.

Ways to prevent diabetic eye disease coincide with the managing of diabetes altogether: controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol; maintaining a healthy diet and exercise; and having regular eye exams to monitor the disease.

If you have diabetes, it is important to schedule yearly exams with your optometrist in order to monitor the health of your retina. Also, make sure to come in if you are noticing a sudden change in vision or floaters, blurred vision that affects only one eye or vision changes that are not associated with a change in blood sugar.

Optomap: The Bigger Picture

Your retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye. It converts light and images to signals which it then sends to the brain. When there is a problem with the retina, it can impede this messaging process resulting in impaired vision or blindness.

Early detection of any retinal health issues is imperative to treating the conditions. Because the retina has no nerve endings, it is possible to have damage or another health condition and not feel it. Only a comprehensive eye exam and retinal screening by your eye doctor would detect such an issue.

ECS_optomap_blog-01Some of the more common conditions that can affect your retina:

Diabetic retinopathy
Age-related macular degeneration
Retinal detachment
Ocular melanoma

The traditional method for viewing the retina is through dilation of the pupil. This allows your eye doctor to view your retina directly and notice if there are any abnormalities or issues that need to be further looked at. Traditional dilation allows your doctor to see approximately 15% of your retina at one time.

With the new optomap® technology, your doctor now can see 82% of your retina at one time. The optomap scans your retina with an ultra-widefield view, often with no dilation necessary, and presents a digital image of your retina to your doctor. The benefits to this are that your doctor now has an almost complete view of your retina and is able to notice any abnormalities. Also, there are now digital records of your retina, and your doctor is able to compare records to note any changes.

Optomap is available at all EyeCare Specialties locations. Your doctor will be able to recommend how often you should have an optomap image taken based on your lifestyle and family history.