This post was written by Kaitlyn Creager, lifestyle change specialist, Diabetes Care Services, Parkview Health.
If you live with diabetes, you may feel overwhelmed by the complications that could arise with your diagnosis. However, it’s important to stay calm and remember there are several precautions you can take to protect your health and the health of your extremities. For example, your eyes are just one area that can be affected. In fact, people with diabetes are at an increased risk for eye problems, which is why it’s critical that you stay up to date with routine eye exams by an eye care professional.
When to get an eye exam
The American Diabetes Association makes the following recommendations for those living with diabetes:
- People with Type 1 Diabetes should get a complete eye exam within five years of their diagnosis.
- Individuals living with Type 2 Diabetes should get a complete eye exam upon diagnosis.
- Women with diabetes should have an eye exam before coming pregnant or during their first trimester, then continue to be closely monitored up to one year after giving birth.
The reason for a retinal scan
As previously mentioned, individuals with diabetes are at greater risk of developing vision problems such as diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition that can lead to vision loss, blindness, glaucoma and diabetic macular edema. Having preventive eye exams, which include a retinal scan, allows your care team the opportunity to detect and treat any issues while preventing further damage. A retinal scan is one tool your eye doctor can use to take a picture of the inside of your eye. This scan can detect damage to the blood vessels caused by elevated blood sugars. And while it does not replace a comprehensive eye examination with an ophthalmologist, it can serve as a valuable tool for your eye care team.
How it works
The retinal scan is a computerized test that detects damage to your retina and blood vessels. During a scan, you look into a scanning device while a painless and unperceived beam of low-energy infrared light gets cast into your eye, and a few pictures of your retina get taken. You won’t need dilating unless the machine has trouble capturing the images. In most cases, an eye care professional performs the exam. However, if you are a Parkview Physicians Group – Endocrinology patient, you can make an appointment for the onsite machine.
What positive results mean
If your results indicate retinopathy, you may get a referral to an eye care specialist for further evaluation. It’s important to remember that a positive reading indicates the need to have an eye doctor take a closer look at your eyes. An ophthalmologist can determine the type and extent of the retinopathy and provide a treatment plan to prevent loss of vision.
What negative results mean
If the results do not indicate retinopathy, the American Diabetes Association recommends a comprehensive eye exam with dilation at least every two years.
National Institute of Health: Diabetic Retinopathy
Mayo Clinic: Diabetic retinopathy