Diabetic Eye Exams

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Unique Eye Care for Patients with Diabetes

Managing diabetes effectively can be challenging, but taking care of your eyes does not have to be. While diabetes can cause potentially severe conditions such as diabetic retinopathy (the leading cause of blindness in American adults), it can also be easily monitored and managed with annual diabetic eye exams.

It is important for patients with diabetes to have a comprehensive diabetes-specific eye exam at least once per year.

How Does Diabetic Retinopathy Develop?

The back of your eye is covered with several thin layers of tissue. These tissues make up the retina, which is responsible for detecting light and is full of small, delicate blood vessels.

Over time, high or irregular blood sugar levels can damage these blood vessels. If not addressed, this damage can cause bleeding and scar tissue, which can permanently damage your vision.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

For the most part, early-to-moderate diabetic retinopathy is asymptomatic; you may not notice any symptoms until you have already lost a significant portion of your vision. However, more noticeable symptoms include:

  • Dark or blank spots in your vision
  • Blurriness
  • Inconsistent vision
  • Changes in color vision
  • Floating “spots” or “strings”

Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood sugar levels are not managed effectively, damaging the blood vessels in your retina and prompting them to leak fluid. Your body tries to replace these damaged blood vessels by growing new ones. However, the new blood vessels are often irregular and weak. When they become damaged, they can leak easily, causing scar tissue that impairs your vision. There are two forms of this disease – Non-Proliferative and Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy.

In Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, the blood vessels in the retina are weakened. Tiny bulges in the blood vessels, called microaneurysms, may leak fluid into the retina. This leakage may lead to swelling of the macula.

Proliferative Retinopathy

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy is the more advanced form of diabetic retinopathy and is a result of decreased circulation to the retina tissue, depriving it of oxygen. As oxygen levels decrease, new fragile blood vessels begin to grow in the retinal tissue. These vessels are not strong and often can break causing bleeding into the eye and sudden loss of vision. These vessels also cause scar tissue that can contribute to retinal detachments and vision loss.

At any level of Diabetic Retinopathy diabetic macular edema can be present. This is a result of swelling to the retinal tissue that obscures the macula , a small area of the retina responsible for central vision that allows you to read, recognize faces, and notice fine details. Any damage to your macula can have a significant impact on your vision.

Medical Optometry America Recommended Tools & Therapies

MOA practices use the following technology and therapies to diagnose and manage diabetic eye diseases:

  • OCT (Retina Scan): A non-invasive imaging test that allows your eye doctor to see each of the retina’s distinct layers, providing treatment guidance for diabetic eye diseases.
  • OCTA: Angiography imaging that provides a thorough assessment of the retinal vascular health.
  • Fundus Photography: The use of a retinal camera to photograph different regions of the eye. This test is considered medically necessary for diagnosing diabetic retinopathy, along with several other conditions.
  • Nutritional Therapy: Medical Optometry America offices carry the #1 nutritional products on the market (nūmaqula and nūretin by PRN) to support retinal health.

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