What is The Difference Between a Diabetic Eye Exam and a Routine Eye Exam?

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For adults, scheduling a yearly eye exam is the best protection against eye conditions and diseases. During these exams, your eye doctor can check for warning signs of various diseases and treat you accordingly, helping to prevent irreversible eye damage. 

If you have diabetes, you’re at risk for an eye condition known as diabetic retinopathy. Given that this condition is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults, it’s a serious risk to consider. Therefore, diabetic patients will need to undergo a somewhat specialized eye exam each year. 

What Happens During a Routine Eye Exam?

What actually happens varies depending on where you go. In a retail setting, the focus is on speed and getting prescriptions for glasses and contacts. The medical history usually needs to be done in detail. A routine eye exam involves:

  • A brief vision and medical history
  • A visual acuity test and refraction
  • A very basic exam
  • It often doesn’t involve dilation, which is necessary to check for diabetic complications.

Some places do more for routine exams, but detailed medical history, communication with primary physicians, and detailed exams of the retina, counseling specifics are often minimal or nonexistent. 

The goal of a regular eye exam is to measure your vision, correct it with glasses and/or contacts if needed, and briefly screen for concerns with your eye health. 

What Makes a Diabetic Eye Exam Different?

Although a diabetic eye exam involves many of the same tests as a regular eye exam, your doctor will hone in on the health of your blood vessels and retina. This allows for early detection of diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness if left untreated. 

To check your retina and blood vessels, your eye doctor may use the following tests:

  • Pupil dilation or digital retinal imaging
  • Special photography techniques
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)

These tests will allow your eye doctor to identify any signs of leaking blood vessels and/or retinal damage in the eye. If you’re diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, your doctor can begin a treatment plan to prevent permanent damage. 

Contact The Eye Clinic of Florida today to schedule your yearly eye exam and learn more about our treatment offerings for diabetic retinopathy.