Q: I’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes and was told I need an eye exam. What does diabetes have to do with my eyes?

Being diagnosed with diabetes or even pre-diabetes can be scary and confusing. Your doctor will advise you on what good diabetic eye care is and what kind of lifestyle changes you will need to make. While some adjustments may be difficult to do, it's all for a great cause…your health.

It may be confusing when your doctor tells you to get an eye exam. So, what does diabetes have to do with your eyes? The link between diabetes and a patient’s eyes can take on three different forms.

  1. There are vision changes that can lead to a change in prescription. This can be very frustrating for a newly diagnosed diabetic patient. They experience a change in prescription and feel like they are not seeing as well as they used to. This happens because when the blood sugar levels are uncontrolled and running high, the natural lens inside a person’s eye swells, leading to a shift in prescription that makes the person nearsighted. This causes the individual's distance vision to be blurry. A change in prescription can fix this problem, but it does not address the underlying cause of someone's vision change. The only way to truly solve this issue is to bring the blood sugar back under control. Controlling blood sugar levels is paramount for quality diabetic eye care.
  2. There can be a change in eye health that may be undetected in the early stages of diabetes. If the lens stays swollen for an extended period of time, it can lead to changes in eye health. A swollen lens will eventually become damaged and develop cataracts, which is the clouding of one’s natural lens. This is when the effects of diabetes can no longer be solved with a change to glasses prescription. To correct this issue, a person must undergo a surgical procedure. Following best diabetic eye care practices can reduce the chances for such surgery.
  3. Development of diabetic retinopathy, which is bleeding inside of the eye. In the early stages of retinopathy, a person does not know they have it. If the condition goes untreated and progresses to a point where they are now symptomatic, it can cause permanent damage to the eye that eventually leads to blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness that can be prevented in the world today. Even if you are not diabetic or pre-diabetic, it is important to have your eyes examined every year in order to monitor for these kinds of changes.

If you have diabetes or have been recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes, have an annual eye exam with an eye care doctor who specializes in diabetic vision health. Dr. Mills of Providence Eye & Laser Specialists handles diabetic eye care on a regular basis. Dr. Mills is now accepting new patients for diabetic eye care as well as general eye care. Contact our office today if you would like to schedule an appointment.