How An Optometrist Performs A Diabetic Retinal Examination

How An Optometrist Performs A Diabetic Retinal Examination

If you are lucky enough to have good vision, you might be wondering why you require more frequent visits to your optometrist and how diabetes affects your eyesight. Many potentially devastating eye problems can develop without signs or symptoms until your vision is permanently affected.  Cataracts and glaucoma are examples of eye diseases that can easily go undetected until you see changes in your vision. You also have a higher chance of developing these diseases if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is another serious complication that can develop in those with diabetes and can only be detected by visiting your optometrist regularly. A diabetic eye exam is composed of a series of painless tests that will find early signs and symptoms of these diseases so they can be managed and treated to prevent future vision loss. 

What Is Diabetic Retinopathy?

A person diagnosed with diabetes (someone who suffers from chronically elevated blood sugar levels) has an increased risk of developing an array of eye problems, most commonly diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes damages the small blood vessels in the back of the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye). When these blood vessels become damaged and weakened by prolonged exposure to high levels of sugar, they begin to bleed into the vitreous (the gel-like fluid in the center of the eye) causing blurry vision and scarring. Damage to vision is irreversible and can only be treated with eye injections and laser treatments. 

What To Expect During Your Diabetic Eye Exam

The Canadian Association Of Optometry encourages people with diabetes to visit their optometrist once per year to receive a comprehensive dilated eye exam. A comprehensive dilated eye exam consists of a series of painless tests that will detect early signs of diabetic retinopathy as well as other eye diseases such as:

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Refractive errors
  • Macular Degeneration

The tests included in a dilated comprehensive eye exam are:

Visual Field Test
A visual field test is a method of measuring a person's entire scope of vision including their peripheral vision and central vision. With the use of special visual field testing maps, your optometrist will be able to detect blind spots or more subtle areas of dim vision. Visual field testing is more frequently used for detecting signs of glaucoma but can also help determine retinal diseases and how far these diseases have progressed. 

Pupil Dilation
Pupil dilation will allow your optometrist to accurately see the back of your eye to check for signs of damaged blood vessels or damage to your retina that can be caused by diabetic retinopathy. Your optometrist will administer special eye drops to dilate your eyes, eliminating their normal reaction to light. You will be asked to rest your chin on a slit lamp while your optometrist shines a light through your eye to get a clear image of everything composing the back of your eye including the optic nerve and retina.

Tonometry Test
Tonometry is a test that measures the pressure inside of your eye. This test is commonly used to determine how at-risk you are for developing glaucoma. Without treatment, increased eye pressure can cause damage to your optic nerve resulting in irreversible vision loss. Your eye doctor will have you rest your chin on a slit lamp after administering numbing eye drops into both of your eyes. They will then place the tip of a tonometer on the cornea of your eye to receive an accurate reading of your eye pressure. You will not feel the tonometer coming into contact with your eye since it will be numb. 

All of these exams will allow your optometrist to determine early signs of diseases that are commonly associated with diabetes. They will be looking for signs of:

  • Leaking blood vessels
  • Macular Edema (fluid buildup in the center of the retina)
  • Fatty deposits on the retina
  • Changes to retinal blood vessels
  • Damaged nerve tissue

Calgary Diabetic Retinal Examinations

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is vital that you visit your optometrist once per year to receive a comprehensive diabetic eye exam to ensure your vision is protected and your ocular health is preserved. The eyes can be among the first parts of the body affected by diabetes.  But by taking preventative measures to visit your optometrist, you will help minimize the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases.

At Sunridge Mall Eye Clinic, our team of experienced optometrists can perform comprehensive diabetic eye exams to screen for, diagnose, and manage diabetic retinopathy to help you preserve your vision. To learn more or book an appointment, contact our Calgary clinic by calling (403) 280-7518 or book online.

FAQs

Q: How often should a person diagnosed with diabetes visit their optometrist?
A: The Canadian Association Of Optometry recommends those diagnosed with diabetes visit their optometrist once per year. 

Q: Can my vision be restored if I lose it to diabetic retinopathy?
A: Unfortunately it cannot. However, treatments are available to help slow down the progression of the disease such as laser eye treatments, prescription lenses, and eye injections.

Q: How long does a diabetic retinal exam take?
A: The time the examination takes will depend on the tests your optometrist uses. Typically the examination will last anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

 


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