Diabetic Retinal Exam: About This Test

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What is a diabetic retinal exam?

A diabetic retinal exam lets your eye doctor see the back of your eye (retina). It helps find eye problems such as diabetic retinopathy. This problem occurs when high blood sugar from diabetes damages the small blood vessels in the retina.

Why is it done?

Diabetes can lead to eye problems like diabetic retinopathy. These problems can cause vision loss or blindness. A diabetic retinal exam along with early treatment may help protect your vision.

The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you will have eye problems. Diabetes can also raise your risk for glaucoma. This is increased pressure inside the eye. It can cause blindness. This eye exam can check for glaucoma, too.

How do you prepare for the exam?

There's nothing you need to do to prepare for this exam.

How is it done?

Before the test, your eye doctor will use eyedrops to widen (dilate) your pupils. This makes it easier to see into your eye. You may also get eyedrops to numb your eyes. Your doctor will then use a special tool to light and view the back of your eye.

How long does it take?

The eyedrops take about 15 to 20 minutes to fully dilate your pupils. The exam takes a few minutes.

What happens after the exam?

Dilating drops may make your eyes sting. This will last for a few moments. They may also cause a medicine taste in your mouth. Your eyes will have trouble focusing for up to 6 hours after the test. This will likely affect your near vision more than your far vision.

Your eyes may be sensitive to light. Wearing sunglasses may help until the drops wear off.

Do not drive for a few hours after the test, unless your doctor says it is okay.

If your eye exam results are normal, your doctor may do follow-up exams every 2 years instead of every year. But if you have diabetic retinopathy, you may need eye exams more often.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.