Diagnosis and Prevention

Diabetic Eye Exam

Diagnosis and Prevention

Diabetic Eye Exam

If you have diabetes, did you know that the longer you have it, the greater the chance you will develop diabetic eye disease? People who have diabetes are at risk of developing serious eye diseases and need special attention and care to protect their vision and eye health.

If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, then you need a diabetic eye exam at least once each year, and your doctor may recommend coming in for diabetic eye exams more often than that, based on your health history.

The expert doctors at Ascension Optical will perform special tests as part of your diabetic eye exam to screen for signs of diabetic eye disease.

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetes can affect the eyes when blood sugar is too high, particularly when this level is not controlled over time. When blood sugar is too high, it can damage the blood vessels in the back of the eyes which may leak fluid or cause swelling.  

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of diseases that can affect people with diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, diabetic macular edema, and glaucoma. Diabetic eye disease can damage the eyes and result in poor vision or blindness, and often there are no symptoms in the early stages.

Diabetic retinopathy

The most common reason for vision loss and blindness in diabetics is diabetic retinopathy. This disease affects the blood vessels in the retina, which is the light-sensitive layer in the back of the eye. 

In the early stages, there may not be any obvious symptoms, but as it progresses, blood vessels start to bleed into the vitreous, which is the gel-like fluid that fills the eye, and then dark, floating spots or streaks may occur in vision.

The risk to develop diabetic retinopathy increases the longer you have diabetes. Women with diabetes who get pregnant or develop diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes) are also at high risk to develop diabetic retinopathy, so if you are pregnant and have diabetes, you need a diabetic eye exam. 


Cataracts cause the front part of the eye to become cloudy and can make vision blurry or hazy, cause colors to seem faded, reduce night vision, increase sensitivity to light, and over time, can lead to vision loss. While cataracts are a common occurrence as people get older, they can happen to diabetics at an earlier age than people without diabetes.

Diabetic macular edema 

Diabetic macular edema is characterized by a build-up of fluid and swelling in the macula, which is the part of the retina used to see clearly while driving, reading, and seeing faces. This disease can damage the vision in this part of the eye and lead to either partial vision loss or blindness.


Sometimes called “the silent thief of sight,” glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss with little to no pain or symptoms in the early stages. The only way to know you have glaucoma in the early stages before vision loss occurs is through regular comprehensive eye exams. Diabetics have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.

Diagnosing diabetic eye disease

The doctors at Ascension Optical use their expertise and advanced diagnostic technology to screen for and diagnose diabetic eye disease. Your doctor will dilate your eyes to thoroughly examine the structures of your eyes and may use optical coherence tomography to examine what is happening to the blood vessels in the retina.

Preventing diabetic eye disease

If you have diabetes, talk to your primary care doctor about controlling your blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled, high blood sugar levels will damage the blood vessels in your retina and lead to serious damage to your vision. Schedule regular diabetic eye exams with your doctor at Ascension Optical, even if you feel fine and don’t notice any changes to your vision, as there are often no symptoms of diabetic eye disease in the early stages.