Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 04/27/21 3:12 PM
Diabetes causes damage to tiny blood vessels. That’s why your eyes are particularly vulnerable to diabetic changes, because the eyes have so many of those small blood vessels. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that it’s easier to monitor those changes in the eye than just about anywhere else in your body.
Diabetic eye exams can feel like drudgery, but honestly, they’re a wonderful opportunity. There’s exactly one place in our body where someone can look directly at arteries, veins, and nerves. I don’t know if eyes are or are not the window to the soul. But they are definitely the window to the circulatory system.
When we do diabetic eye exams at Hunter Vision, we’re looking for changes that happen before your vision is threatened. By great luck, almost every change in vision that happens with diabetes is preceded — usually by years — by changes to the blood vessels that are detectable during a diabetic eye exams.
The order of events is that blood vessels are damaged first (detectable by your eye doctor) and then begin to leak and cause the retina to thicken (detectable by you because of decreased vision).
There are even some high-tech imaging options available nowadays, allowing microscopic 3D topography maps of the retina. In the old days, some changes in the back of the eye were too subtle to be detected. But now it’s possible to detect changes (thickening) from leaky blood vessels. The advantage here is the ability to find early changes to the retina that can sometimes be treated before they affect your vision.
All this to say, if you're on the fence about coming to Hunter Vision for a diabetic eye exam, it’s worth it. It’s an opportunity to find problems before they find you. That’s why the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that annual eye exam. It’s a chance to have a sense of peace that everything looks great, or a change to have a sense of control if there’s a problem to be fixed.