Diabetic Eye Exam


Diabetic eye disease comprises a group of eye conditions that affect people with diabetes: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema (DME), cataract and glaucoma. All forms of diabetic eye disease have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy involves changes to retinal blood vessels that can cause them to bleed or leak fluid, distorting vision. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. DME is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy that causes swelling in the area of the retina called the macula.

Adults with diabetes also are two to five times more likely to develop cataracts and twice as likely to develop glaucoma.

Symptoms and Detection

Diabetic eye disease can go unnoticed until vision loss occurs. People with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. This exam should include visual acuity testing, tonometry, pupil dilation, optical coherence tomography and, if DME or severe diabetic retinopathy is suspected, a fluorescein angiogram to look for damaged or leaky blood vessels.

Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care of diabetic eye disease can protect against vision loss and reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent.


Controlling diabetes is the best treatment, as it can prevent or delay vision loss.

Diabetic retinopathy and DME can be treated with several therapies used alone or combined, among them anti-VEGF injection therapy, focal/grid macular laser surgery, vitrectomy, and corticosteroids. Please refer to the sections on cataracts and glaucoma on this website for information about treatment options.