Diabetic retinopathy is best diagnosed with a dilated eye exam. For this exam, drops placed in your eyes widen (dilate) your pupils to allow your doctor to better view inside your eyes. The drops may cause your close vision to blur until they wear off, several hours later.
During the exam, your eye doctor will look for:
- Abnormal blood vessels
- Swelling, blood or fatty deposits in the retina
- Growth of new blood vessels and scar tissue
- Bleeding in the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eye (vitreous)
- Retinal detachment
- Abnormalities in your optic nerve
In addition, your eye doctor may:
- Test your vision
- Measure your eye pressure to test for glaucoma
- Look for evidence of cataracts
With your eyes dilated, your doctor takes pictures of the inside of your eyes. Then your doctor will inject a special dye into your arm and take more pictures as the dye circulates through your eyes. Your doctor can use the images to pinpoint blood vessels that are closed, broken down or leaking fluid.
Optical coherence tomography
Your eye doctor may request an optical coherence tomography (OCT) exam. This imaging test provides cross-sectional images of the retina that show the thickness of the retina, which will help determine whether fluid has leaked into retinal tissue. Later, OCT exams can be used to monitor how treatment is working.
March 20, 2015
- 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.
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