Question: My doctor diagnosed me with diabetes and said I need to see an Optometrist to have my eyes checked. What does the eye have to do with diabetes?
Answer: Most people know that diabetes is a disease that affects the blood sugar levels in the body. But knowing how that impacts the body is another story. One of the main things damaged in diabetes are the small blood vessels. These small blood vessels go to all of our organs including the eyes, heart, kidney, and brain, among others. Your Optometrist can actually see these blood vessels inside the eye when performing a comprehensive eye examination. That information is used to help determine how the other organs that we can’t see directly are likely doing.
Diabetic changes in the eye can be varied, and include bleeding in the eye, or things like swelling or abnormal new blood vessel growth. If uncontrolled, these changes can keep progressing and eventually lead to blindness if left untreated. Luckily, diabetic changes in the eye are easily identified during an exam. If minor, they can improve with better control of the diabetes, or may require referral to a retinal specialist for treatment to minimize the risk of progression or blindness.
This information is very important to the physician managing your diabetes, and is why they will want your Optometrist involved as part of your health care team.