What Role Do Eye Exams Have In Managing Diabetes?

What Role Do Eye Exams Have In Managing Diabetes?

Diabetes can be a condition you are born with (type 1 diabetes) or it can develop later in life (type 2 diabetes). Both types of diabetes require diabetes management in order to keep blood sugar levels under control and to keep the body safe from the symptoms of diabetes. While some symptoms are temporary and may be relieved by regulating sugar levels at that moment, other symptoms and related health problems can be longer lasting. Diabetes that is not managed can lead to heart complications, nerve damage, sores and infections that require amputation, eye problems, and more. Any health professional that can help detect and manage diabetes is a valuable resource for people, whether they have already been diagnosed or they are just discovering they have diabetes. Here is why eye exams are critical for diabetes detection and management.

The Relationship Between Diabetes And Eye Exams

Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetes has the potential to affect several areas of the body, one of which is the eyes. When a person has diabetes, they are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, which results when high levels of blood sugar affect the small and delicate blood vessels within the retina. When a person has diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels in the eye begin to weaken and leak. After this occurs, new blood vessels form, but they are often also weak and prone to damage. Since the retina is the area of the eye where light and images are detected and sent to the brain, when damage occurs in this area it causes permanent vision impairment.

Diabetic retinopathy develops painlessly and by the time symptoms develop, any damage caused to your eyesight will be permanent and it will be more difficult to slow down progression of the disease and prevent further damage to the eye. Your optometrist will be able to detect the early stages of diabetic retinopathy during an eye exam. For some people, it is the early detection of diabetic retinopathy that informs them they have diabetes. Not everyone goes for regular medicals and people with type 2 diabetes may not know they have diabetes, as symptoms do not always present right away. An eye exam can help not only with the early detection of diabetic retinopathy but also the early detection of diabetes, giving you an opportunity to start diabetes management promptly so that symptoms do not develop.

When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, they need to see their optometrist for regular annual eye exams since they are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. As a way to combat the development of this eye condition, or its progression, if you are already diagnosed, your optometrist will be in communication with you and your doctor to discuss diabetes management strategies. Your doctor and optometrist may work together to develop a personalized plan for you and they may need to discuss your ongoing health.

Related Eye Conditions
Diabetes doesn’t only put you at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, it also increases your risk of developing other eye conditions. When blood vessels are damaged from diabetic retinopathy, it can increase the pressure within the eye and lead to glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve and results in vision impairment or blindness. People with diabetes are also at risk of developing cataracts as high levels of blood sugar can lead to a quicker breakdown of the crystalline lens. An eye exam will observe your overall eye health to detect any other potential eye conditions.

Diabetes isn’t the only serious health condition that your optometrist can catch. 
Read 6 Serious Health Issues A Comprehensive Eye Exam Can Detect to learn more.

Schedule An Eye Exam To Manage The Effects Of Diabetes on Your Vision

If you have diabetes, you should visit the optometrist for annual diabetes eye exams. But even people who do not have diabetes should receive regular eye exams to monitor their eye health and overall health. An eye exam can help with the detection and management of diabetes, but it can also help to detect high blood pressure, certain cancers, eye conditions, and more. At Specs in the City, we use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and equipment to check your eye health and vision and we offer comprehensive eye exams for people of all ages. To schedule a comprehensive eye exam, contact Specs in the City in SE Calgary at 1-403-252-2020 or fill out the online contact form.



Q: Does managing my diabetes ensure the prevention of diabetic retinopathy?
A: No, while it may lower your chances of developing diabetic retinopathy or delay the condition’s onset to later in life, there is no guarantee that managing your diabetes will prevent this eye condition from developing. Even when diabetes is managed, diabetic retinopathy tends to develop in people who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for over 20 years. There are other health factors, such as lifestyle and genetics, that may also contribute to the development of this eye condition.

Q: Does Alberta Health Care cover eye exams?
A: The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) provides coverage for annual eye exams if you’re between the ages of 0-18, or over 65. The provincial plan can also be used in times of an emergency should you require an immediate appointment with an eye doctor. Find out more about eye emergencies here. Although regular eye exams for people ages 19-64 are not covered by insurance, diabetes eye health exams are covered by AHCIP. When you book your appointment, you must specify that you have diabetes and would like to book a diabetes eye health exam.

Q: How does an optometrist test for diabetic retinopathy?
A: An optometrist will test for diabetic retinopathy during an eye exam by using manual tests as well as specialized diagnostic tools. Often, diabetic retinopathy is detected through retinal imaging, where detailed photos of your eye are taken and compiled to create a 3D rendering of the retina.

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