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Annual Eye Exam

~ Deborah K. Schlossman, M.D.

Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable new onset blindness in working-age adults. 

Anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can have diabetic eye disease and not know it,  as it is painless and often has no symptoms until very advanced stages. But with appropriate care you can reduce the risk of blindness and increase your chances of preserving sight.

Joslin Diabetes Center has been on the cutting edge of diabetes-related eye disease prevention since its inception and has set standards across the world for the treatment and care of eyes. At Joslin we have developed clinical guidelines that recommend you take a three-pronged approach to preserving your vision:

1.Maintain excellent A1C and blood glucose levels.

2.Keep your blood pressure and other health factors, such as your cholesterol, in check.

3.Make sure you get your eyes checked annually through a dilated eye exam (an exam in which the doctor places drops in your eyes) or specially validated photographs of your retinas (the inside of the eyes).

Eye exams for people with diabetes are very thorough and may take up to 2½ hours. Part of the exam includes applying drops to dilate your pupils, so the doctor can have a good look at what is happening at the back of your eye called the retina. No portions of the exam are painful, but when you have your pupils dilated you should be prepared to wear sunglasses after the appointment as you’ll be sensitive to light.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease for people with diabetes. It occurs when the small blood vessels in the eye are damaged by high levels of glucose in the blood. Although there are a variety of treatments to treat diabetic retinopathy, the earlier it is diagnosed the more effective the treatment.

Although diabetes is the leading cause of adult-onset blindness, the good news is that vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy can be prevented. Take charge of your eye health and make sure that an annual dilated eye exam is part of your comprehensive treatment plan.

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Page last updated: April 17, 2014