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3 Diabetes Tests You Must Have

Diabetes Test #2: Dilated Eye Exam

If you have diabetes, your ophthalmologist or optometrist should perform a dilated eye exam, in which the pupils are widened with drops, to check for signs of diabetic retinopathy.

With diabetes, high blood sugar damages tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. In a more advanced form called proliferative retinopathy, new blood vessels grow along the retina and in the clear, gel-like vitreous that fills the inside of the eye. Without treatment, these new vessels can bleed, blur vision, severely damage the retina, and lead to vision impairment or blindness.

In this country, diabetic retinopathy is the top cause of blindness in adults under age 65. Each year, as many as 24,000 people with diabetes lose their sight, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI).

The good news: when doctors detect diabetic retinopathy, they can help prevent vision loss with timely and highly effective treatments, such as laser surgery to seal leaking blood vessels.

"Prevention is absolutely the key. If the patient waits until the vision is gone, it's probably not going to be restored to normal," Cagliero says.

All people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year as part of a complete eye exam. Early retinopathy may cause no noticeable symptoms, so regular eye exams are crucial for detecting emerging problems.

"A lot of patients tell me, 'I see fine. Why should I go and see the eye doctor?'" Cagliero says. "I tell them, 'That's exactly the time to go see the eye doctor because you can keep your vision great.'"

Diabetes Test #3: Foot Exam

Diabetes can cause nerve damage and numbness, as well as decreased circulation that makes it harder for your body to fight infection. Patients with numbness problems may not notice if they injure a foot. A resulting infection may not heal well, and skin and other tissue may die. In a small minority of cases, the problem progresses into a complication that requires amputation.

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