Diabetic Eye Examinations

When to Schedule an Examination

People with diabetes should schedule examinations at least once a year. More frequent medical eye examinations may be necessary after a diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy. Pregnant women with diabetes should schedule an appointment in the first trimester because retinopathy can progress quickly during pregnancy. If you need to be examined for eyeglasses, it is important that your blood sugar be consistently under control for several days when you see your ophthalmologist. Eyeglasses that work well when the blood sugar is out of control will not work well when the blood sugar is stable.

Rapid changes in blood sugar can cause fluctuating vision in both eyes even if retinopathy is not present.

You should have your eyes checked promptly if you have visual changes that:

  • affect only one eye;
  • last more than a few days;
  • are not associated with a change in blood sugar.
  • When you are first diagnosed with diabetes, you should have your eyes checked:
  • within five years of the diagnosis if you are 29 years old or younger;
  • within a few months of the diagnosis if you are 30 years old and older.

At your Diabetic Eye Exam

To effectively diagnose diabetic eye disease, Orange County Ophthalmology recommends  yearly comprehensive diabetic eye examination that includes the following procedures:

  • Visual acuity test to check distance and near vision
  • A dilated eye examination, which includes the use of an ophthalmoscope.  The use of dilating drops allows your doctor to see through the pupil to the retina. Acuity tests alone may not be sufficient to detect diabetic eye disease in its early stages.
  • A tonometry test to measure fluid pressure inside the eye.
  • A fluorescein angiography test, if more serious retinal changes, such as macular edema, are suspected.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) may be used to gain a clearer picture of the retina and its supporting layers.
  • Also, an Amsler Grid test can detect early and sometimes subtle visual changes in a variety of macular diseases, including diabetic macular edema.