The Essential Diabetes Eye Health Checklist

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 9-Apr-2018

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or have risk factors for the disease, your vision may be in danger. Surprisingly, many diabetics don’t realize that diabetes increases the risk for a number of blinding diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, early cataracts and glaucoma.

According to Key-Whitman Eye Center’s Plano eye doctor Faisal Haq, “The good news is that these eye conditions typically can be prevented and safely managed when diagnosed and monitored early on. Open communication between the patient and eye doctor, along with the patient’s primary care doctor or endocrinologist, is the key to protecting eye health.”

If you or a family member suffers from diabetes, it is essential to take proactive steps to ensure good eye health and prevent permanent vision loss. The following checklist is a great place to start!

Diabetes Eye Health Checklist

No. 1: Know when to see your eye doctor.

People are typically at higher risk for diabetes if they have a family history of diabetes or other risk factors, such as being overweight, physically active less than 3x/week and are of African-American, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native descent.

Those who haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes yet – but are at risk should plan to see an eye doctor at the following times:

  1. Annually for a dilated eye exam.
  2. Right away if they experience frequent vision and/or prescription changes, blurry vision or signs of early cataracts (glare symptoms, such as difficulty driving at night or in the sunlight).

According to Dr. Haq, “Fluctuating vision – where the vision changes day to day or even hour to hour – is the most common eye-related symptom for diabetes. This occurs because high blood sugar levels can cause the natural lens in the eye to swell. This can also lead to frequent changes in eyeglasses prescriptions, because the swelling often causes a power shift – or prescription change – where vision can go back and forth.”

Patients who have seen their eye doctor multiple times for new glasses should have their blood sugar levels checked. Dr. Haq typically won’t prescribe new glasses for diabetics until their blood sugar levels have stabilized.

Those who have been diagnosed with diabetes should plan to see an eye doctor at the following times:

  1. Annually, unless your eye doctor advises otherwise.
  2. As directed by your primary care doctor or endocrinologist.
  3. Right away if you notice any vision changes such as blurred vision, double vision, fluctuating vision/prescriptions or glare symptoms (trouble driving at night or in the sunlight).

No. 2: Know when to see your primary care physician or endocrinologist.

According to the American Diabetes Association, “Some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed,” however, common symptoms of diabetes that should raise red flags and prompt a doctor visit include:

  1. Urinating often.
  2. Feeling very thirsty.
  3. Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating.
  4. Extreme fatigue.
  5. Blurry vision.
  6. Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal.
  7. Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type 1).
  8. Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2).

Your eye doctor may also advise you to schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor or endocrinologist.

Why? Eye doctors often uncover symptoms of diabetes during an eye exam even before the patient has been diagnosed with diabetes by a primary care physician.

As Dr. Haq explains, “During a comprehensive eye exam, we look for

1) fluctuations in prescriptions,

2) cataracts, that often occur earlier in diabetic patients and

3) diabetic retinopathy, which is the most common sign of diabetes. Retinopathy starts with little hemorrhages and white spots on the retina that indicate poor blood supply. Swelling in the macula and bleeding and scarring in other parts of the retina can also show up during a dilated eye exam or in special pictures we take of the eye.”

No. 3: Talk to your primary care doctor or endocrinologist about steps you can take to prevent and/or manage diabetes and vision loss.

When Dr. Haq finds symptoms of diabetic eye disease in a patient, he encourages the patient to see a primary care physician or endocrinologist right away to work on getting hemoglobin A1C levels down. “The better patients control their diabetes, the less likely they are to have problems or experience vision loss, which can occur due to early cataracts, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma,” Dr. Haq says.

No. 4: Choose an eye doctor who is experienced in treating eye diseases and conditions related to diabetes.

As Dr. Haq explains, “At Key-Whitman, we specialize in treating diabetics and monitoring diabetic eye diseases. Once a patient is diagnosed, we communicate those findings, including the status of the retina, directly to the patient’s primary care doctor or endocrinologist. We also do our best to make sure the patient comes in for annual check-ups (or more frequently if necessary) and send reminders so they don’t forget.”

Concerned about diabetes and your vision? We can help! If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, contact us right away to schedule an appointment with Dr. Haq at our Plano location or one of our Key-Whitman eye doctors at our Dallas, North Dallas, Arlington, South Arlington or Mesquite eye centers. Please give us a call at (972) 905-9128, or feel free to set up an appointment online.

ABOUT DR. HAQ:

Dr. Faisal Haq received his undergraduate degree from Boston University and earned his medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine. He completed his ophthalmology residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Haq has been tending to the needs of Key-Whitman patients since 2006 and was recently recognized as a “Best Doctor” in Collin County by D Magazine in 2011 and 2013-2017. Dr. Haq lives in Plano with his wife and two children. He loves to travel and has been on several surgical mission trips to Belize to perform charity cataract surgery.

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

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