The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that anyone who's older than 10 with type 1 diabetes have his or her first eye exam within five years of being diagnosed with diabetes.
If you have type 2 diabetes, the ADA advises getting your initial eye exam soon after being diagnosed with diabetes, because you may have had diabetes for some time without knowing it.
After the initial exam, the ADA recommends that people with diabetes get an annual eye exam. If you've had repeated normal exams and your blood sugar control is good, you may be able to extend the time between exams to two to three years. If you have retinopathy that's worsening, you may need more-frequent eye exams. Ask your eye doctor what he or she recommends.
The ADA recommends that women with diabetes who become pregnant have an eye exam during the first trimester of pregnancy and be closely followed during the pregnancy and up to one year after giving birth. Pregnancy can sometimes cause diabetic retinopathy to develop or worsen.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your eye appointment.
What you can do
- Write a brief summary of your diabetes history, including when you were diagnosed; medications you have taken for diabetes, now and in the past; recent average blood sugar levels; and your last few hemoglobin A1C readings, if you know them.
- List other medications, vitamins and supplements you take, and the dosage.
- List your symptoms, if any. Include any that may seem unrelated to potential eye problems.
- Ask a family member or friend to go with you, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember the information you receive. Also, because your eyes have been dilated, a companion can drive you home.
- List questions for your doctor.
For diabetic retinopathy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- How is diabetes affecting my vision?
- Do I need other tests?
- Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- What side effects might I expect from treatment?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- If I control my blood sugar, will my eye symptoms go away?
- What do my blood sugar goals need to be to protect my eyes?
- Can you recommend services for people with visual impairment?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
March 20, 2015
- Do you have eye symptoms, such as blurred vision or floaters?
- How long have you had symptoms?
- In general, how well are you controlling your diabetes?
- What was your last hemoglobin A1C?
- Do you have other health conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
- Have you had eye surgery?
- Diabetic retinopathy. National Eye Institute. http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy.asp. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
- Standards of medical care in diabetes — 2014. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2014;37(suppl):S14.
- Fraser CE, et al. Diabetic retinopathy: Classification and clinical features. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
- Diabetic retinopathy. American Optometrics Association. http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy?sso=y. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
- Eye complications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/eye-complications/. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
- Fraser CE, et al. Diabetic retinopathy: Prevention and treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
- Leitgeb RA, et al. Doppler optical coherence tomography. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research. 2014;41:26.
- Retinopathy. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Jan. 5, 2015.
- 4 steps to manage diabetes for life. National Diabetes Education Program. http://ndep.nih.gov/publications/publicationdetail.aspx?pubid=4. Accessed Jan. 6, 2015.
- Robertson DM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Accessed Jan. 12, 2015.