Diabetes is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States, with an estimated 100 million adults currently living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. This metabolic disorder occurs when the body is no longer able to regulate its own blood sugar levels and requires intervention to keep them stable. Most people are aware that diabetes can have serious consequences for our health. However, you may be surprised to learn that it can also cause loss of vision and blindess. This is because patients who are diabetic can go on to develop a complication that is known as diabetic retinopathy. Without prompt treatment, diabetic retinopathy can cause permanent vision loss. It is for this reason that patients who suffer from diabetes should have ANNUAL diabetic eye HEALTH exams.
For us to be able to see clearly, our eyes need to be healthy and functioning perfectly. The most important component of our eyes is the retina, which is like film to a camera. Found at the very back of the eye, the retina is a layer of light-sensitive cells that captures the light that passes into the eye and sends the signals through the optic nerve to our brain. Our brain then receives the signals and converts them into images.
The retina relies on a continuous supply of blood, which is delivered using a network of tiny blood vessels. Over time, having continuously high blood sugar can damage these blood vessels causing leaking of blood and other fluids into the retina. If this happens, areas of the retina will become damaged and scarring may occur which could compromise the quality of your vision. These complications are known as DIABETIC RETINOPATHY.
Anyone who suffers from diabetes, whether it be Type 1 or Type 2, is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. However, the condition is more likely in certain situations if:
Regular diabetic-related eye HEALTH exams will enable Dr. Kubota to monitor your condition and ensure that any signs of diabetic retinopathy are detected and treated immediately.
The process of a diabetic eye health exam is very simple. In addition to basic eye exam procedures, specific EYE HEALTH TESTS are needed to check for diabetes-related complications by thoroughly examining the entire retina and examining underneath the macula (the central part of the retina that allows us to see detail). Procedures that can do this are Optos Retinal Scan and OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography). A dilated fundus exam can also view the surface of the retina, but cannot view undermeath it.
Optos Retinal Scan and OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) are non-invasive, high-technology tests. No dilation of the eyes is needed and together the screening tests take only 5-10 minutes on the average. You simply look at targets and lights will flash by your vision to capture the images. These tests allow an extensive, detailed view and assessment of your retinal layers, with statistical analysis for your specific age, to allow Dr. Kubota to determine the health of your eyes. There are no side effects with these procedures.
A dilated fundus exam takes more time and has some side-effects. You will be given eyedrops to dilate your pupils which may blur your vision and will cause you to become very light-sensitive. These may sting a little when they are administered, but this will pass within a few minutes. After your pupils are fully dilated, then Dr. Kubota will use instruments with lights to observe the surface of the retina. Your total appointment time is approximately 60-90 minutes or more if additional drops need to be administered to achieve full pupil dilation. The blurring of your vision and/or light sensitivity can last up to 8 hours for a standard dilation, but could be longer if special, stronger drops are needed. For this reason, when having your eyes dilated, we recommend that patients bring a driver and avoid outdoor activities until their pupils return to normal.
The information that Dr. Kubota obtains from your diabetic eye health examination will help determine if you have signs of diabetic retinopathy. If so, Dr. Kubota will discuss the best way to get your condition under control. This could involve a combination of elements, including controlling your diabetes more effectively with diet and exercise, monitoring your blood sugar more closely, taking medications or referring you to a specialist who may do surgical procedures to try to preserve your vision. Dr. Kubota will give you more specific information based on your individual circumstances.
If you have further questions about diabetic-related eye exams, please contact our knowledgeable eye care team.