Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes should have a dilated eye exam performed by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) every year. 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. For people with type 2 diabetes, the ADA advises getting the initial eye exam soon after you've been 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 either type 1 or type 2 diabetes get an annual eye exam. Some people who've had repeated normal exams may be able to extend the time between exams to two to three years. Ask your eye doctor what he or she recommends.

Women with diabetes who become pregnant need to have an eye exam during the first trimester of pregnancy and possibly again later in the pregnancy, depending on the results of the first exam. The reason for this is that pregnancy can sometimes worsen diabetic retinopathy.

Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your eye appointment and what to expect from your eye doctor.

What you can do

  • Write down a brief summary of your diabetes history, including when you were diagnosed, what medications you currently take for diabetes, what medications you've used in the past, your average blood sugar levels in recent weeks, and your last few hemoglobin A1C readings, if you know them.
  • Make a list of any other medications that you take, along with the dosage information. Also write down the names and doses of any vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, if any. Include any that may seem unrelated to potential eye problems, because other conditions can affect your eye health.
  • Ask a family member or friend to come with you, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all of the information provided to you, and someone who accompanies you might remember something that you missed or forgot. In addition, because your eyes will stay dilated for some time after the exam, a companion would be available to drive you home.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Preparing a list of questions can help you cover all of the points that are important to you. For diabetic retinopathy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • Why is diabetes affecting my vision?
  • Do I need any other tests?
  • Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
  • What types of side effects can 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?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • Are you having any eye symptoms, such as blurred vision or seeing floaters?
  • How long have you been experiencing symptoms?
  • In general, how is your diabetes management?
  • What was your last hemoglobin A1C?
  • Do you have any other health conditions, such as high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol?
  • Have you had any eye surgery?
Mar. 27, 2012

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