How to Prepare for a Diabetic Eye Exam

Apr 01, 2023
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Blurry vision, blind spots, and floating specks are just a few signs that diabetes is affecting your eye health. A diabetic eye exam can reveal early damage, so you can stop the progression. Here’s what to expect.

High blood sugar — the hallmark of diabetes — damages blood vessels and nerves throughout your body, including those in your eyes. Regular eye exams are a must when you have diabetes because the first stages of nerve and blood vessel damage often don’t present symptoms. 

The only way to know if a problem is brewing is to see an ophthalmologist with extensive experience diagnosing and treating diabetic eye diseases. In Gainesville and Chiefland, Florida, your choice is clear. Dr. Maher Fanous at North Florida Eye Center is one of the state’s most trusted, skilled, and experienced diabetic eye disease specialists.

Dr. Fanous explains here how to prepare for a diabetic eye exam and what to expect when you arrive.

Why diabetic eye exams are important

Diabetes affects every part of your body with blood vessels and nerves, which means everything’s at risk from head to toe. Consistently high glucose levels shred your blood vessels and nerves, causing problems with your heart, kidneys, skin, feet, gums, and eyes.

There are four main types of diabetic eye disease:

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in your eyes begin to leak, or the disease causes the growth of new but substantially weaker blood vessels in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness.

Glaucoma

When your blood sugar remains high, it damages the blood vessels in your eyes, triggering the development of new but abnormal vessels to replace them. If these new ones grow on your irises, they create excess pressure that leads to glaucoma

Macular edema

Blurry or distorted vision is a sign of macular edema, swelling in the center of your eye. Your macula is at the very center of your retina and helps you see straight ahead, but leaky blood vessels lead to inflammation, so your macula can’t focus, and images become blurry.

Cataracts

Diabetes doesn’t necessarily cause cataracts — cloudy lenses — but if you’re at risk for cataracts, diabetes can trigger an earlier formation and make them progress more quickly. Dr. Fanous performs routine cataract surgery to resolve the issue. 

A diabetic eye exam can detect these problems and more, so you and Dr. Fanous can stay ahead of the damage.

How to prepare for your diabetic eye exam

Diabetic eye exams don’t hurt, but they are slightly different from routine eye exams, so Dr. Fanous has some tips for getting ready.

Arrange transportation

During your diabetic eye exam, Dr. Fanous places drops in your eyes that dilate (widen) your pupils, allowing him to see deep inside. Your pupils stay dilated for a few hours, and it’s unsafe to drive until they return to normal, so you need a family member or friend to drive you home.

Write down your symptoms

The early stages of some diabetic eye diseases can be sneaky because they don’t let you know there’s a problem forming until the disease progresses. However, when you have diabetes, every vision disturbance matters, even if you think it’s minor. 

In the days and weeks leading up to your diabetic eye exam, write down any vision symptoms you experience to give Dr. Fanous all the information he needs to diagnose you accurately. Examples of diabetes-related vision symptoms include:

  • Distorted vision
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Floaters or strings
  • Vision loss
  • Blank or dark areas in your vision
  • Colors that don’t look right

In addition to jotting down your symptoms, record your A1C readings at the time you experience them. Your list of symptoms, coupled with the results of your diabetic eye exam, gives a more comprehensive picture of your eye health.

Know your diabetic story

Everyone experiences diabetes differently, and your unique story helps Dr. Fanous round out your treatment plan. Alongside your list of symptoms, jot down the details of your medical history and diabetes journey, including:

  • The fate of your diabetes diagnosis
  • Medications you take
  • Your recent A1C readings
  • Other health conditions you have

It’s also a good idea to write down any questions you have, as it’s easy to forget them during your appointment.

What to expect at your diabetic eye exam

After Dr. Fanous discusses your symptoms and overall health, he proceeds with the physical aspect of your diabetic eye exam. As we mentioned, he places drops in your eyes to dilate your pupils. He then uses a special camera that captures images of the back part of your eyes and sends the images to a computer, which evaluates them for diabetic retinopathy.

If the results are negative, it means you don’t have diabetic retinopathy, and positive results mean you have diabetic retinopathy and may need immediate treatment.

Dr. Fanous also inspects your eye for cataracts, macular edema, and glaucoma. 

Regular diabetic eye exams are the best way to save your vision. To schedule a diabetic eye exam, contact North Florida Eye Center online or by phone.