Atrium Health Navicent Ophthalmology Macon

Dilated Diabetic Exams

Doctor examines an elderly woman's eyes

Diabetes damages blood vessels. Elevated glucose is a symptom of diabetes. Diabetics differ in their ability to control their blood glucose levels. The HbAIc test is a marker of the average level of blood glucose over the prior three months. Higher HbA1c results indicate less control of elevated glucose. The current recommended HbA1c is 6.0 . As blood glucose remains elevated, small blood vessels begin to react first.

The blood vessels in the eye are some of the tiniest ones in your body. They can bleed (hemorrhage) or become blocked (infarct). Both can cause sudden irreversible loss of vision. Eye examinations that incorporate eye drops to dilate your retinas so a bright light can be used along with a powerful magnifier to see the blood vessels in your eye are necessary. If you are a diabetic, then depending on your symptoms, glucose control, how your retinas, optic nerves and other parts of your eye look, you may have to repeat eye exams with dilation every three months or more. This may change to every six months or annually after control of glucose and stabilization of blood vessels in the eyes occurs.

The single most important eye test for diabetics is to have an examination where your pupils have been dilated using eye drops. Your pupils being opened wide allow the examiner to get a much better view of the inner workings of each eye. On average, it takes approximately four hours for the effect to go away. Since your pupils cannot constrict, you should wear sunglasses in bright light until the drops wear off. You will likely see things a little blurry, and your depth perception may be altered until the medication wears off. Some patients are concerned about eye dilation for driving. If you believe you may not be able to drive after a dilated exam, bring along a friend to drive you home.