May is Vision Month – a good time to think about the last time you went to the eye doctor. The American Diabetes Association recommends that if you have diabetes, you should have a dilated eye exam every year if one of the following factors applies to you:
- If you’re between the ages of 10 and 29 and you’ve have diabetes for at least five years
- If you’re 30 or older, no matter how long you’ve had diabetes
- If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant
- If you have any changes in your vision
It’s important to remember that this is in addition to seeing your diabetes doctor. For example, my endocrinologist always checks my eyes when I see her for an appointment, but she’s not a eye specialist, so I need to see an eye doctor, too. How do you get the most out of your eye doctor visit?
- Go on record. The health record, to be exact. Bring a list of your medications, prescription and non-prescription. That means antihistamines, decongestants, and even any vitamins you take.
- Talk about it. Tell your doctor about any vision problems you may have had. Be sure to mention any medical conditions (diabetes or other conditions like high blood pressure). Family health history is also important to share, because most eye diseases have some genetic component.
- Daily digest. When your doctor understands your lifestyle, he or she can help you find the perfect eyewear choice for you. Be ready to talk about your daily habits and hobbies. Do you use a computer? How many hours a day? Is the lighting in your office natural or artificial? Do you do a lot of close-up work or work outdoors?
- Make it work for you. Certain hobbies, like sports, reading and needlework, can impact eyewear suggestions, so share those, too. The right eyewear can protect your eyes, enhance your skills and improve your vision.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask about the consequences of diabetes. For example, how it will affect your vision and what kinds of tests you will need. Ask about treatment options. Bring a pen and paper to the exam, so you can jot down notes and call back later if you have more questions.
- Go back for more. In addition to your yearly eye exam, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor if you notice any of the following signs: Unexplained visual problems, such as spots, “floaters,” or cobwebs in your field of vision, blurring or distortion, blind spots, eye pain, persistent redness, or trouble reading books or traffic signs or difficulty distinguishing familiar objects.
Significant advances have been made in treating diabetes-related eye complications, so it’s better to be proactive and catch a developing complication early! You can go to the American Diabetes Association’s website to learn more about eye care and eye complications.
P.S. Funny story: My eyes dilate very easily and take several hours to return to normal. Once after a dilated eye exam, one eye returned to normal much more quickly than the other, so that one of pupils was normal while the other was about twice its normal size. My friends said it looked pretty spooky, so we decided not to go out that night! 🙂