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Diabetic Eye Exam

Diabetic eye disease is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Diabetic retinopathy (or disease of the retina) is the most common complication in the eye from poorly controlled diabetes. In some ways you can think of diabetes as a disease of small blood vessels. When blood sugar levels run too high for too long they begin to damage the vessel walls and they can become leaky. Even very small leakages can disrupt the function of the retina and cause vision changes. Early on these changes are usually reversible, but later on in the disease process they can cause permanent damage and vision loss. Severe glaucoma, early cataract development, and even large refraction/glasses prescription changes can also be caused by poorly controlled diabetes.


A diabetic eye exam is essentially a thorough comprehensive eye exam with extra attention given to eye structures that are prone to diabetic changes, particularly the retina, optic nerve, and iris. At the Crookston and Fosston Eye Clinics we utilize other diagnostic instruments such as a wide-field retina camera to document any findings, along with a specialized retina scanner called an OCT which takes cross-sectional views of the macula to check for microscopic, deeper swelling that is not observable with normal viewing. A diabetic exam report is sent to the patient’s primary care provider at the end of the visit so each person’s eye health status is included in their general medical chart. We also work closely with area retinal specialists for cases that require more advanced care.


The American Diabetic Association recommends an annual diabetic eye exam, more often if complications are noted. The good news is that when diabetes is carefully managed, most cases of severe diabetic eye disease and permanent loss can be avoided.

Written by: Dr. Forgit, optometrist since 2004

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