How diabetes affects the eyes
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that can profoundly impact many organs within the body, including the eyes. People living with diabetes have a far higher risk of eye conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma. In addition, people with diabetes are at risk for developing diabetic eye diseases such as diabetic maculopathy and diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic maculopathy is caused by swelling of the macula due to damaged and leaky blood vessels, and can result in decreased or distorted central vision. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damaged blood vessels that starve the retina of oxygen and can lead to abnormal leaking, bleeding or scar tissue formation. Over time, this can lead to vision loss. The longer you live with diabetes, the higher your risk of developing complications such as diabetic eye disease.
Diabetic eye checks and screening tests – What to expect
The best way to reduce the impact that diabetes has on both your eyes is to manage your diabetes carefully, and to take measures to ensure your blood pressure and cholesterol are well-controlled. To prevent vision loss from diabetic eye disease, early detection, regular monitoring, and prompt treatment are essential – this requires a dilated eye examination. Here is what you can expect before, during and after a diabetic eye check and screening tests.
Before the test
If you have diabetes, it is recommended that you have your eyes checked at least once a year. These regular screening examinations aim to detect any problems with your eyes before they begin to affect your vision. A routine diabetic eye examination requires the use of dilating drops to widen your pupils to allow a thorough assessment of your macula and retina. Therefore, it is important to prepare for blurred vision and light sensitivity for up to four hours following your examination – you should ensure you do not drive yourself to your appointment, and you should bring sunglasses to wear afterwards. Ensure that you bring any glasses or contact lenses that you usually wear to your appointment.
During the test
First, your vision and eye pressure will be measured. You will then have dilating drops instilled into each eye, which will widen your pupils after around 15-20 minutes. You will then have retinal photographs taken, as well as a macular scan. Dr Pappalardo will then perform a thorough eye examination. She will discuss any current concerns you have with respect to your vision, and will explain the findings of the examination to you. She will provide recommendations for when your next check-up should occur, and if required will outline any treatments that need to be considered. The entire appointment will usually last one to two hours.
After the test
As mentioned, you may find that your vision is slightly blurry while your pupils remain dilated, so you should not drive until it returns to normal. Additionally, you may like to wear sunglasses outside while your pupils remain dilated, to help reduce glare and discomfort.
Get in touch to see Dr Juanita Pappalardo
Dr Pappalardo is a Specialist Ophthalmologist with experience treating a range of common eye diseases, including diabetic eye disease. If you have diabetes and are due for an eye check, get in touch to plan your visit with Dr Pappalardo.