effective-diabetes-self-management

Knowledge is Power: Eye Exams for Diabetics

effective-diabetes-self-management

The professional support team needed for a person dealing with a chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes is large. My team includes a primary care physician, an endocrinologist (diabetes doctor), a psychologist, a dentist, a periodontist, and an optometrist. It can feel overwhelming sometimes when I think about all of the visits to these various professionals that are required to ensure that I avoid diabetic complications, if possible, or uncover complications early enough so that they are treatable.

One of the least difficult appointments on my yearly rounds is with my optometrist. Eye exams for diabetics are needed yearly or possibly more frequently if retinopathy is detected by an initial exam. Diabetic retinopathy can be well managed if caught early but sadly many diabetics either do not have access to optometric care or do not know the importance of yearly eye exams for diabetics.

What should you expect at the doctor’s office? Eye exams for diabetics are much the same as for the rest of the population, and should consist of:

  • Glaucoma testing – my doctor uses the “puff of air” test but some doctors use something called a tonometer to touch the front surface of you (numbed) eyes, measuring the pressure inside;
  • Eye muscle movement test – you’ll track moving objects while your doctor watching how your eyes move;
  • Visual acuity test – you’ll be asked to read lines of text that get smaller as you proceed down the chart, while covering each eye in turn;
  • Refraction testing – with that same chart, the doctor will flip back and forth between different lenses, asking you “Which is better?”;
  • Visual field test – the doctor will ask you to keep your head still while tracking how well you can see things at the edge of your visual field (peripheral vision);
  • Retinal examination – after dilating your eyes with special drops, the doctor will examine the back of your eye with a tool called an ophthalmoscope.

My doctor performs the retinal examination as the last item for the appointment; I’m not sure if this is true for all doctors. Since your eyes will be hypersensitive to light and will have trouble focusing properly for several hours after the exam, you should plan to walk to your appointment, ask someone to take you to the office and pick you up afterwards, or find somewhere near the office to sit and wait for the effects to wear off.

Nothing in the eye exam is painful and, when you’re done, it’s a great feeling to know that you can check off another item on the list of required annual appointments for effective diabetes self management.

If you are diabetic, do you have a yearly eye exam? What would you tell another diabetic about why they should have an eye exam as part of their diabetes treatment plan?

p.s. If you’d like to read more about my daily life, visit my personal blog.

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