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Diabetes may affect your eyes but regular screenings help keep them healthier.

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Annual eye exams are an important part of staying healthy, especially if you have diabetes. Even if you can see clearly, dilated eye exams help detect conditions that may not cause symptoms but can result in serious damage to your vision if they go undetected.

Why do diabetics need annual eye exams?

Diabetes may affect the blood vessels in your eyes, leading to diseases that put your vision at risk. Your risk of these eye conditions is higher if you have diabetes:

      • Diabetic retinopathy
      • Glaucoma
      • Cataracts

If caught early, many eye conditions are treatable. Having your eyes checked by your regular doctor or an optician is not enough. Only optometrists and ophthalmologists can detect signs of diabetic eye complications by doing a dilated eye exam.

What is a dilated eye exam?

Your eye doctor will place drops in your eyes to dilate (widen) your pupils so they can see your cornea, lens, retina, optic nerve and blood vessels in the back of your eyes. This allows the doctor to assess the health of your eye and is different than a vision screening (although they can be done in the same visit).

When should you see an eye doctor?

The American Diabetes Association recommends yearly dilated eye exams for anyone with diabetes. You should also schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

      • Blurry or double vision
      • Difficulty reading or focusing
      • Seeing spots or floaters
      • Eye pain or pressure
      • Dark or empty areas in your line of vision
      • Trouble seeing things to the side

Think of an annual eye exam like your annual preventative appointment with your primary physician. The exam helps you manage and maintain your health, even if you don’t have any particular issues that you are aware of.


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Date Last Reviewed: May 27, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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