What To Expect at a Diabetic Eye Exam

A diabetic eye exam involves the evaluation of parts of your eyes that diabetes can hurt. The length and scope of the exam depend on what your physician finds important. For instance, if you have no signs of diabetic retinopathy, the doctor will check your retinas. The situation is different if you have been dealing with diabetes for a long time. In such a scenario, your diabetic eye exam will be extensive. Sometimes you may need to undergo some kind of in-office treatment.


What Diabetic Eye Exams Check For

These exams check for all eye health issues that may happen because of diabetes. Some of these issues are:

  • Cataracts.
  • Diabetic retinopathy – This happens when blood vessels in your eyes start to leak. Without treatment, the leaking becomes worse. This can lead to partial or total blindness. Detecting this problem early can help avoid blindness.
  • Glaucoma – This is a build-up of pressure inside your eyes.
  • Diabetic macular edema – This is the swelling of the macula at the back of your eye. The macula helps you see colors and central vision.


When Do You Need a Diabetic Eye Exam?

If you have type one diabetes, you need to have an eye exam within the first five years of your diagnosis. After that, you must book an eye exam appointment yearly. On the other hand, if you have type two diabetes, you need to get an eye exam as soon as possible. If you are planning on getting pregnant soon, consult your physician before doing so. You must do it within the first trimester of pregnancy. Schedule a follow-up appointment one year after birth.

After having your first eye exam, you need to do it again every year. This helps you stay up-to-date on the well-being of your eyes. Traditional eye exams are not ideal for diabetic patients.



Fundoscopy is an eye exam that focuses on the back of your eyeballs. This is where your retina and the blood vessels that feed it sit. Your ophthalmologist will use several tools to examine your eyes for damage from diabetes. These include:

Slit-lamp ophthalmoscope – This is a binocular microscope that your doctor uses to examine your eyes. This helps them see a high-resolution image of specific areas of your eye. These are your optic nerve, retina, and blood vessels.

Direct ophthalmoscope – This is a hand-held instrument that your doctor uses to focus on the rear of your eye.

Indirect ophthalmoscope – This is an instrument that your doctor wears on their head. It gives them a wider scope of the rear of your eye and retina.

In place of fundoscopy, your ophthalmologist may decide to use fundus photography. This is a high-resolution picture of the rear of your eye. This gives your doctor a permanent image of your eyes.


Pupil Enlargement

This involves using eye drops to enlarge your pupils. This allows your doctor to get a better view during a diabetic eye exam. It usually takes approximately 20 minutes for your pupils to fully dilate after applying the eye drops. It takes up to three hours for them to return to normal.


Cost of Diabetic Eye Exam

Most doctors bill diabetic eye exams like traditional medical eye exams. This means that the costs are within your medical insurance coverage.

For more on diabetic eye exams, visit Advanced Vision Institute at our office in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can also call (702) 819-9800 to book an appointment today.

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