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Can an Eye Exam Detect Diabetes?

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An eye exam is about more than just updating your prescription. It’s also a powerful tool to help detect a wide range of different eye diseases and diabetes-related vision issues. Early detection and treatment are important, and your optometrist can help preserve your long-term vision with regular eye exams.

A comprehensive diabetic eye exam can help detect diabetes early, sometimes even before symptoms begin to show themselves. 

Let’s explore how an eye exam can help detect diabetes and other eye disease issues, and what to expect during the exam. 

Diabetes & Your Vision

Diabetes is a systemic condition that affects not only your blood sugar but your vision as well. Diabetes is a widespread condition—in fact, over 100 million Americans are living with diabetes or a pre-diabetes diagnosis. 

Diabetes can raise your blood sugar level to a point where it can cause complications with your heart, teeth, and eyes. Consistent eye exams can help catch diabetes even before the earliest symptoms develop.

A diabetic eye exam allows your eye care professional to detect a wide range of eye diseases and diabetes-related vision issues before your vision is permanently damaged. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common eye diseases associated with diabetes and is the most common cause of preventable blindness in the United States. 

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina are damaged by a buildup of excess sugar in your blood, resulting in too much glucose in your eyes, damaging blood vessels and progressively blocking blood flow.

A boy scratching his right eye, experiencing blurry vision while sitting in front of his computer.

Early stages of diabetic retinopathy may display no symptoms, but some common signs and symptoms can include:

  • Fluctuating vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Spots or floaters in your vision
  • Vision loss

Diabetic Macular Edema

Diabetic macular edema can form if you leave diabetic retinopathy untreated. This condition occurs when blood vessels behind your retina bulge or leak, placing pressure on your macula cells and possibly leading to permanent vision loss.  

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. Diabetes can almost double your chances of developing the disease, and regular eye exams can help with early detection and treatment.

Open-angle glaucoma occurs when small blockages form in your eye’s drainage canal. These blockages prevent intraocular fluids from leaving your eye, resulting in increased intraocular eye pressure leading to permanent vision loss. 


Cataracts occur when the naturally clear lens of your eye becomes clouded. Cataracts can form because of excess blood sugar caused by diabetes. 

Prescription glasses and contact lenses can help correct cataract-related vision issues. However, cataract surgery is the only way to get rid of them completely. 

Diagnostic Tools for Your Visual Needs

Regular eye exams are important for early detection, but how does the process work? Your optometrist uses diagnostic tools to explore the details of your eyes to find irregularities and potential issues related to diabetes and eye disease. 

Optos Optomap Imaging

Optos retinal imaging is a tool used to assess the health of your eyes. Optos retinal imaging features a scanning laser that gets a close, detailed look at your retina

This non-invasive imaging system allows your doctor to detect early signs of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema

Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT)

OCT is another imaging system that assesses the health of your retinas. An OCT scan functions similarly to an ultrasound, but instead of sound, it uses light waves to capture detailed, cross-sectional images of your retina.

Your optometrist can use OCT to detect early signs of diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, open-angle glaucoma, or even age-related macular degeneration.

Preserving Your Eye Health

Diabetes is a challenging condition to navigate and can affect your vision if left unchecked. Regular eye exams can help your eye doctor stay up-to-date with your eyes and vision and consistently check for developing eye disease and diabetes-related vision issues.

Book your next eye exam with our Eye Care Center of Colorado Springs team today to stay on top of your eye health. 

Written by Dr. Sara Johnson

Dr. Sara Whitney graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from Rockford College in Rockford, IL and received her Doctor of Optometry degree from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. As an optometry student, Dr. Whitney completed a primary care externship in Wilmington, NC, and a hospital-based rotation at the Naval Health Clinic of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, TX. Dr. Whitney has cared for patients as an optometrist in the Colorado Springs area since May of 2009. She has experience in family eye care, including pediatric eye examination, adult eye care, treatment and management of ocular disease, contact lens fitting, and eye surgery co-management. Colorado State licensed and certified in ocular pharmaceutical agents, Dr. Whitney’s training and experience allow her to diagnose, treat, and manage or co-manage all eye conditions. Professional memberships include the American Optometric Association, Colorado Optometric Association, and Southern Colorado Optometric Society.
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