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Diabetic Eye Exams: Why They’re Important

Older gentleman undergoing eye exam at eye clinic

Diabetic Eye Exams: Why They’re Important

Eye exams are important for your eye health, especially if you have diabetes. Several diabetes-related eye diseases can significantly impact your eye health and vision. If you have diabetes, why are regular eye exams so important?

Continue reading to learn more about how diabetes can affect your eye health and why diabetic eye exams are important.

How Can Diabetes Affect Your Eye Health & Vision?

Diabetes can have a significant impact on your eye health. Blood vessels in the retina support your eyes, but they are sensitive to damage caused by high blood sugar.

When your blood glucose levels are too high, your blood vessels can become damaged, leading to swelling and leaking fluid in the eye. Several diabetes-related eye diseases develop from issues with the blood vessels in your eyes.

Blurred vision is common when your blood sugar levels become temporarily elevated, but this effect usually resolves itself with time. Besides your glucose levels affecting your vision, diabetes increases your risk of several eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Diabetic Retinopathy

You’re at risk of diabetic retinopathy if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. This conditions symptoms are difficult to notice because they may not appear until your vision is affected.

There are two stages of diabetic retinopathy, nonproliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs when tiny bulges protrude from blood vessel walls within your eye. These bulges may break and leak fluid and blood into the retina.

When blood vessels become blocked, the disease has entered an advanced stage. This stage is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. These blocked blood vessels stop oxygen flow to the retina, causing new, abnormal vessels to develop as a replacement.

Diabetic Macular Edema

Diabetic macular edema develops from diabetic retinopathy. This condition occurs when leaking fluid causes the center of the retina (the macula) to swell, causing eventual vision loss. It’s one of the most common causes of vision loss for those with diabetic retinopathy.


A cataract is the clouding of your eye’s lens. This condition is usually age-related, but someone with diabetes has an increased risk of developing cataracts.

Having cataracts affects your ability to see clearly, with your vision feeling as if you’re looking through a foggy window. While the early stages of cataracts may not affect your vision, this condition progresses with time.

Many people receive cataract surgery when vision is significantly affected.


Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that cause damage to your optic nerve. Many forms of glaucoma raise the pressure inside your eye, damaging the optic nerve and leading to potential vision loss.

Your risk of developing glaucoma is 40% higher if you have diabetes. This disease has little to no symptoms until your vision is affected, so early diagnosis is key to protecting your vision.

Diabetes increases your risk of several eye conditions, many of which have limited warning signs. If you have diabetes, regular examinations are vital for your eye health.

Man undergoing eye exam by his optometrist at eye doctor clinic

The Importance of Diabetic Eye Exams

While everyone needs eye exams, consistent examinations are crucial for someone with diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of several eye diseases, and many of them may not show symptoms until vision loss occurs.

Because these symptoms are hard to identify alone, you need an annual eye examination to determine if any issues are present. Without an annual exam, you may put yourself at risk of vision loss and other complications.

The earlier your eye doctor finds a problem, the earlier they can begin to treat it. A diabetic eye exam slightly differs from a standard examination; there is a focus on your eye health.

If you have diabetes, what can you expect during a diabetic eye exam?

What to Expect During Your Exam

A diabetic eye exam begins similarly to a standard eye exam. You’ll go through several preliminary tests, such as chart readings, cover tests, and a slit lamp exam to check your overall eyesight.

After preliminary tests, your optometrist will complete a dilated eye examination. After dilating your eyes, your eye doctor will look at the structure of your eye, including the retina, optic nerve, and surrounding blood vessels.

These tests can help your optometrist determine if you’re at risk of any diabetes-related eye diseases. If you have any relevant symptoms, you’ll receive a customized treatment plan to effectively manage or prevent an eye condition from worsening.

Diabetes can seem tricky to manage, but your optometrist is here to help. An annual diabetic eye exam allows your eye doctor to diagnose any potential problems and offer recommendations to manage your diabetes effectively.

Visit Your Optometrist Annually

Visiting your eye doctor every year may feel tedious, but it’s the best way to help protect your vision. Diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma can all lead to vision loss, and you may not notice any symptoms.

With an annual diabetic eye exam, you can help protect your eye health and vision from potential complications. If you need an eye exam, contact your optometrist today.

Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

Nation-wide awareness about the vast dangers of obesity is at an all-time high, with TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and health initiatives such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign shining a spotlight on the importance of fitness and good nutrition. However, despite the public’s knowledge of obesity’s effects on hypertension, stroke, and diabetes, many are not aware of how it damages eye health and vision.

Increasing evidence shows that people who are clinically obese have an elevated risk of developing serious eye diseases. It is widely known that expanding waistlines place people at a higher risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and cancer — but researchers say the link between obesity and deteriorating vision is the “risk factor that no one talks about”. Professor Michael Belkin and Dr. Zohar Habot-Wilner, from the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Center, found a consistently strong correlation between obesity and the development of four major eye diseases that may cause blindness: 

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy

The researchers said that although the evidence was out there suggesting a link between obesity and these conditions, their study emphasizes the optometric risks of obesity which can help motivate people to shed those extra pounds.

How Obesity Contributes to Eye Disease

A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is regarded as obese. A high BMI is tied to several chronic systemic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, among others. Recent research indicates that a handful of ocular diseases can now be added to that list. 

Serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration are more common in individuals with obesity, as well as floppy eyelid syndrome, retinal vein occlusions, thyroid-related eye diseases, and stroke-related vision loss. 

The connection between obesity and these eye diseases is likely due to the increased risk of peripheral artery disease. This occurs when the tiny blood vessels bringing oxygen to parts of your body like the feet, kidneys, and eyes become compromised.

Your eyes are particularly prone to damage from obesity because the blood vessels in the eyes (called arterioles) are easily blocked, since they’re extremely thin and small — as thin as ½ the width of a human hair! 

Most people are not aware that obesity may increase the rate of developing cataracts, too. Cataracts result when the focusing lens in the eye becomes cloudy and requires surgery to be replaced. In addition to age, cataract development is associated with obesity, poor nutrition, gout, diabetes and high blood sugar levels, though the exact cause isn’t clear.

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce Your Risk of Ocular Disease

Knowing about the risk of vision loss may give those with a high BMI the extra motivational boost they need to lose weight. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can reduce the associated risks.

An active lifestyle and a balanced, nutritious diet lower obesity and improve overall physical and eye health. Give your body a boost by incorporating important nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega 3, zinc, and lutein, many of which are found in green leafy and dark orange vegetables, as they have been shown to reduce the onset, progression, and severity of certain eye diseases. 

We Can Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy in Rockville

While a healthy diet and regular exercise greatly increase your chances of living a disease-free long life, they alone are not enough to ensure long term healthy eyesight. Regular eye exams with Dr. Alan Glazier can help prevent or detect the onset of ocular disease, and maintain vision that is clear and comfortable.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your vision or eye health, don’t hesitate to call Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care — we’re here for you.