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Why Regular Diabetic Eye Exams Matter

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women with diabetic eye on left compared with normal eye on right

Your eyes and body share a unique relationship.

If you didn’t know already, several health conditions could lead to various eye concerns. Sjögren’s syndrome and lupus can increase the risk of developing dry eye, multiple sclerosis can increase the number of floaters you notice in your vision, and your cornea may develop a blue or yellow if you have high cholesterol.

However, one of the most common vision-affecting health concerns in the country is diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of several eye diseases and conditions, some of which can lead to permanent vision loss if you don’t have the proper help to manage them.

On top of this, many diabetes-related eye diseases can develop for years without noticeable symptoms. By the time you notice something wrong with your sight, the issue may be permanent. To help ensure you get the help you need, we recommend every person with diabetes have a comprehensive diabetic eye exam every year.

Today, we will look at how diabetes affects your eye health, the issues we can help uncover, and the tools we can use to help manage your sight. 

Diabetes & Your Eyes

What Is Diabetes?

First and foremost, diabetes is a systemic disease that affects how your body processes sugar, or glucose, in your bloodstream. A key hormone to this process is insulin, which helps sugar enter your blood cells and give you energy. 

However, depending on which type of diabetes you have, you may have difficulty managing your blood sugar levels:

  • Type 1 diabetes affects how much insulin your pancreas produces. Without insulin, sugar can’t enter your blood cells, causing the sugar to build up in your bloodstream.
  • Type 2 diabetes changes the way your blood cells respond to insulin in your bloodstream, increasing how much sugar you have in your blood.

There is no cure for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but managing your insulin levels, eating healthy, and being active could help prevent various symptoms.

How Diabetes Affects Your Eyes

Now that we understand the basics of diabetes, let’s look at how it can affect your eye health.

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may develop higher sugar levels in your bloodstream. This sugar can then affect various parts of your body, specifically the blood vessels in your retina.

If high blood sugar affects your retina’s blood vessels, you may have a higher risk of developing various eye diseases, and you may experience symptoms like:

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Floaters
  • Color vision changes
  • Partial vision loss

If you experience these symptoms, please get in touch with us to book an eye exam. These symptoms could indicate a growing eye health problem that our team needs to address.

Common Diabetic Eye Diseases & Conditions

We’ve mentioned a few times that diabetes can increase the risk of several different eye problems, but what are they?

On top of the symptoms you might experience, you may also develop diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, open-angle glaucoma, and cataracts. These concerns often develop slowly and could cause permanent vision loss, with the exception of cataracts.

If you have diabetes, we look for these issues during every eye exam.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common eye diseases people with diabetes can develop.

There are 2 different versions of this disease:

  • Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the most common and it develops when built-up sugars cause your retina’s blood vessels to bulge. Over time, these bulges can leak fluid into your retina, and may increase your risk of developing diabetic macular edema.
  • Proliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs when your retina’s blood vessels leak fluids, but your retina tries to compensate for the fluid loss by creating new, but abnormal, blood vessels. Unfortunately, these new vessels can break easily, causing them to leak fluid and create scar tissue on your retina. If you develop scar tissue on your retina, you may have a higher risk of experiencing retinal detachment.

Diabetic Macular Edema

Diabetic macular edema is an eye disease that can develop as a result of diabetic retinopathy and occurs when fluids leaking from your retina’s damaged blood vessels start to pool underneath your macula, causing it to swell.

Your macula is the center-most part of your retina, responsible for providing the central vision you use to read, recognize faces, and see fine details. As the macula swells, you may notice distortions in your central vision, but eventually, you could experience vision loss.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common version of glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that affect your optic nerve.

Diabetes can double your risk of developing open-angle glaucoma, but we can detect this disease by either measuring your eye’s intraocular pressure or by observing your optic nerve during an eye exam.


When your retina’s blood vessels leak fluids into your eye, your eyes may develop higher sugar levels, increasing your risk of developing cataracts earlier in life.

Cataracts are some of the most common eye conditions people can develop as they get older, and they could lead to blindness if they’re not treated. However, cataract surgery is a common procedure that can remove cataract lenses and replace them with artificial lenses called IOLs to help restore your vision.

How We Detect These Concerns

Even if you aren’t diagnosed with diabetes, we can detect its signs during an eye exam. We use several techniques and strategies to get a comprehensive view of your eye health. Still, we also use a selection of modern technologies to look at the internal structures of your eyes that support your vision.

These technologies include:

Optical Coherence Tomography

Optical coherence tomography, or OCT, scans give us detailed, cross-sectional images of your retina. Think of this device as an ultrasound for your eyes, but instead of using sound, the OCT device uses light to help us look at the numerous layers of your retina.

Using an OCT, we can detect diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, and glaucoma.

Fundus Photography

Fundus photography is a digital imaging technique that captures detailed, colorized images of your fundus, the area of your eye that includes your retina, macula, optic nerve, and your retina’s blood vessels.

Like the OCT, it can help us detect diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, and glaucoma.

Preserving Your Eye Health if You Have Diabetes

Managing your diabetes is essential to preserving your eye health, but you should always talk to your family physician for advice specific to your needs. However, there are some common tips we can recommend, like:

Managing Your Diabetes ABCs

Your diabetes ABCs include your:

  • A1C, or blood sugar, levels
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol

Following a Healthy Lifestyle

If you have diabetes, your physician may recommend:

  • Diet changes
  • Exercising more
  • Quitting cigarettes
older gentlemen undergoing eye exam by optometrist to look for signs of diabetes

Having Regular Eye Exams

Regular eye exams are essential for detecting various eye diseases and conditions, including those related to diabetes. If you have diabetes or risk developing it, please make sure you visit our team regularly.

If you haven’t had an eye exam in a while, contact us to book your next appointment today!

Written by Dr. Megan Baldwin

As a Kansas native (born and raised in Kingman), Dr. Baldwin is thrilled to practice what she loves so close to home. She can’t imagine anything better than to care for her community and build strong ties with new friends and colleagues.

When She’s not in the office caring for her patients, Dr. Baldwin enjoys making memories with her husband, Aaron, and two sweet kids, Parker and Stella! You’ll often find her playing piano, hosting her friends and family in her home, or out for a run. Dr. Baldwin and her husband enjoy traveling to warm places and recently became open-water scuba diver certified!

She chose eye care as her career because Dr. Baldwin has always wanted to help people. The quality of care she provides is incredibly important to her. In an age where doctors spend just a few minutes with their patients, she is proud to give her patients the time and diligence they deserve. More than to simply “see” you, Dr. Baldwin wants to learn more about you and how she can best serve your needs. Your relationship matters.

Dr. Baldwin invites you to make an appointment for yourself or your children, whether you have an eye concern or are simply seeking an updated corrective lens prescription. She will always do her best to provide you the best eye care available anywhere in Wichita.

Professional Associations & Memberships

  • Member, Kansas Optometric Association (KOA)
  • Member, American Optometric Association (AOA)
  • Member, Business Networking International (BNI)


  • Bachelor of Science (chemistry) – Bethel College, 2007
  • Doctor of Optometry – Northeastern State University, Oklahoma College of Optometry, 2011
    • Graduated Magna Cum Laude
    • Member of the Beta Sigma Kappa honor society
    • Presented with “Outstanding Clinician in Ocular Disease” award
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