Diabetes patients are at risk for diabetic damage to their eyes; therefore, they should have a special eye exam so that all aspects of their eyes and vision can be monitored and high definition photos of the retina can be taken. Everyone with diabetes should have at least one in-depth eye exam per year, since diabetes can cause serious damage to the eyes.

What does a diabetic eye exam consist of?

A diabetic eye exam always involves your vision and prescription being checked by an eye doctor. Then, in the health part of the exam, which is the most important if you have diabetes, the eye doctor will check your eyes for cataracts because if your diabetes is not under control, you may have advanced cataracts. Younger people tend to develop cataracts earlier if they are diabetic, so they should be checked for that. Afterward, they dilate the eyes so that they can see more clearly inside. Looking specifically at the retina, the retina has a vasculature that supplies oxygen to the retina both in front and behind the retina. By looking in the eye, they can view the vasculature and determine whether diabetes has caused any stress.

Additionally, they are looking for leaks in the vessels. They are looking for areas of edema and areas that may be starving of oxygen since when you have too much sugar in your blood, it is easy for parts of your retina, and that happens all over your body, to become oxygen-starved. It's at that point that they start to see changes in the retina, which is why a diabetic retinal eye exam is so important.

Does an eye doctor detect changes in diabetic patients manually or through photos?

An eye doctor performing a diabetic eye exam without photos would see everything they need to see and document accordingly. But when they have the photos available, they can document those changes in the best way possible. Let's say a patient visits an eye doctor and is diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, so the eye doctor notes would describe a certain level of diabetic retinopathy, and these photos will demonstrate this. It's a little more information they can share with the primary care physician. Furthermore, they are able to compare the photos when the patient visits again to see if anything has changed.

Is it true that an eye doctor detects changes in a diabetic patient before an endocrinologist does?

When an eye doctor examines your eyes, they actually look at the vasculature, and that is the area that is affected. This is a vascular condition. If the sugars are too high or fluctuate too much, they can detect changes in that sooner than most other doctors can because they are looking directly at the vessels. They can look into a patient’s eyes without having to inject dye or cut them open. It is right in front of them. So again, those photos are important because they let them know the status of the vascular health in your eyes and that’s going throughout your entire body.

Does an eye doctor send medical records to your primary care doctor?

The answer depends. There are doctors who, if you don't have diabetic retinopathy, just want to make sure you're getting your eyes checked. In cases of diabetic retinopathy, based on the severity, an eye doctor will share the information with your primary care physician as well.

Receive the best care by visiting us for Diabetic Eye Exams at our renowned optometry clinic in Bellflower, catering to patients from Long Beach, Lakewood, and Los Angeles. Call (562) 925-6591 or fill out this form to make an appointment today.
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