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I Have Diabetes — How Often Should I Have My Eyes Checked?

High blood sugar levels can damage your eyesight before you even realize it. If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, it’s important to have your eyes checked regularly.

Our ophthalmologists and optometrists at Pacific Eye are experienced in diabetic eye care, and they can help you maintain your eye health for years to come. If you have diabetes, make regular eye exams part of your wellness strategy.

How does diabetes affect eyesight?

If you have diabetes and don’t know it, your glucose (blood sugar) can be very high. This buildup can damage or blood vessels in your retina, leading to partial vision loss or even blindness.

You may also develop glaucoma or cataracts. If you notice any changes with your eyesight — such as problems focusing, blurry vision, or vision loss — contact Pacific Eye to make an appointment right away.


The retina is a thin layer of tissue near the back of your eye that receives light and converts it into signals for the brain, allowing you to see whatever you’re looking at. Diabetics are at risk of an eye disorder called retinopathy.

Nonproliferative retinopathy occurs when blood vessels balloon and pouch. Proliferative retinopathy occurs when blood vessels are damaged and close down. New blood vessels may form, but they are weak and may leak fluid or cause scar tissue, which affects your vision.

You may not experience any symptoms with retinopathy until you start to have problems with your vision. This is why you need regular eye exams. If we notice a problem in its early stages, we can help you manage it before it gets worse and affects your vision.

Diabetic macular edema

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the capillary walls weaken, allowing fluid to leak into the macula — the area of the eye where vision occurs. This area can swell and cause blurry vision.

How often should I come in for a diabetes eye exam?

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with Type 1 diabetes should have an eye exam within five years of diagnosis. People with Type 2 diabetes should have an eye exam as soon as possible after a diagnosis. This is because they may have had diabetes for a while without knowing it and their eyesight could already be affected.

At Pacific Eye, we provide a comprehensive eye exam, and our specialists can let you know how often you need to return. It really depends on what problems you’re having and the severity of your condition.

When you come in for a diabetic eye exam, we dilate your pupils and look into your eyes for any signs of damage. Based on our findings, we may prescribe special eye drops, prescribe glasses or contact lenses to improve your vision, or even perform laser surgery. Our goal is to keep your eyes healthy for as long as possible.

What you can do

You can improve your eye health by keeping your blood sugar under control. Be sure to eat healthy, unprocessed foods, and lose weight if you’re overweight.

If you have diabetes, or you’ve recently been diagnosed, make an appointment with one of our diabetic eye care experts at Pacific Eye — we have locations in San Luis Obispo, Lompoc, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Orcutt, or Santa Maria, California. Call your nearest office, or use our convenient online request tool today.

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