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Did you know that diabetes is one of the most common causes of blindness?

You may be surprised to learn that optometrists can detect diabetes before primary care doctors and before the patient even knows they have it. This is because the eye is the only organ in our body where we can directly see blood vessels without invasive techniques. Since many systemic diseases affect our arteries and veins, the eye is a great way to look into what is happening inside our body.

Photo source: Cleveland Clinic

Diabetes is becoming an epidemic in North America, and it is important to be aware of its effect on ocular health. Once diagnosed with diabetes, it becomes much more important to receive yearly eye exams, to monitor for diabetic retinopathy. This is a condition in which buildup of sugar in the blood causes blockages or damage to blood vessels, resulting in decreased oxygen supply to the eye. To compensate, new blood vessels develop. However, instead of helping, these new blood vessels are weak and leaky, leading to retinal bleeding. Although a diabetic eye exam is very similar to a regular comprehensive exam, there is more emphasis on inspecting the health of the retina and blood vessels.

How will I know if I have diabetic retinopathy?

Symptoms like floaters, blurred or fluctuating vision, dark spots in your vision, and vision loss could be signs of diabetic retinopathy.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent diabetic retinopathy. Some of these preventions include:

  • Yearly eye exams with your optometrist (even if you think your vision is fine!)
  • Controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol
  • Proper dosage and compliance of medication provided by your Family Physician
  • Engaging in regular daily activity and exercise
  • Eating a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain healthy body weight