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Dilated eye exams & retinopathy screening for patients with diabetes

Diabetic retinopathy can develop over time in people living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Individuals with diabetes also live with increased risk of glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye diseases. Keeping up with regular eye exams and discussing vision changes with your eye doctor is the best way to protect your eyes and vision.

Both routine and medical eye exams conducted by a licensed optometrist are available at all Eye Boutique locations.

What is a diabetic eye exam?

‘Diabetic eye exam’ is a term used to refer to eye exams for people with diabetes. It’s not an official medical procedure. The main reason people with diabetes need regular eye exams is to screen for diabetic retinopathy, which is done with a dilated retinal exam.(i)

(i) The retina is a thin, light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of your eyeball. The retina is what registers light and sends visual information to your brain to produce vision. High blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina, and over time this damage can lead to vision loss.

Diabetic eye exam vs regular eye exam

Optometrists provide two types of eye exams, whether or not you have diabetes:

Routine eye exams include eye health evaluation, vision testing, and a dilated retinal exam. Yearly routine eye exams are recommended for patients with no current eye or vision problems.

Medical eye exams are provided when a patient has an eye or vision problem, which could mean eye pain, dry eye, redness, sudden vision changes, and more. If you’ve already had your annual routine eye exam and your doctor recommends additional dilated retinal exams, these would also be considered medical eye exams.

Dilated or digital retinal exams

An eye doctor can screen for diabetic retinopathy with a dilated retinal exam or a digital retinal exam.

Dilated retinal exams start with eye drops to dilate your pupils, giving the doctor a wider view of the retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels.

Digital retinal exams use Optomap® technology to take a wide-angle image of your retina. No eye drops are used, and your retinal image is saved to compare against future scans.

Eye exams with Optomap® aretinal imaging are available at Eye Boutique in Naperville, Schaumburg, Joliet, Geneva, and Crystal Lake (all locations except Algonquin).

Additional tests may be required during your exam, depending on the results of your retinal exam.

How much does a diabetic eye exam cost?

Our optometrists see many patients with diabetes, and our standard comprehensive eye exam includes dilation (in other words: there’s no extra charge for a regular eye exam if you have diabetes). Without vision insurance, a comprehensive eye exam costs $69. Terms and conditions apply to promotional eye exam pricing, please see offer details.

If you have vision insurance, it likely covers all or most of the cost of an annual eye exam. Our eye doctors take most vision plans, and we offer free benefit checks so you’ll know what your plan covers going in.

The above pricing applies to routine eye exams. The cost may be different if you have diabetes and need a medical eye exam.

Routine Eye Exam
  • Annual
  • No eye health concerns
  • Includes refraction (vision testing)
  • Includes dilation (retinal exam)
  • Typically covered by vision insurance
Medical Eye Exam
  • As needed
  • Chronic or acute eye health concerns
  • Does not include refraction
  • Includes dilation
  • May be covered by medical insurance

How pricing works for medical eye exams

The cost of a medical eye exam can vary, depending on whether it’s your first time seeing the optometrist, and what the eye doctor finds during your exam.

For patients with health insurance, it may cover all or part of the cost of a medical eye exam.

We accept Medicare medical plans, and we’re a medical PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) for:

  • UnitedHealthcare PPO eye care Illinois
  • BlueCross BlueShield PPO eye care Illinois
  • Cigna PPO eye care providers

Our eye doctors are OON (Out Of Network) providers for:

  • Aetna
  • Humana

Not sure if your medical insurance covers eye exams? Call or visit one of our stores with your insurance information on hand, and an associate can check for you.

For patients without health insurance, a medical eye exam can cost anywhere from $51 and up. We take CareCredit for both routine and medical eye exams at all our stores.

How often should you get a diabetic eye exam?

Generally, people with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam once a year to screen for diabetic retinopathy and other possible issues, according to the ADA (American Diabetes Association).

Type 1 Diabetes

People with Type 1 diabetes should have a dilated comprehensive eye exam within 5 years of diagnosis.

Type 2 Diabetes

People with Type 2 diabetes need a dilated eye exam as soon as possible after diagnosis. Because Type 2 diabetes develops slowly, by the time you’ve been diagnosed you could already have retinopathy.

Pregnant woman with Diabetes

Should have a dilated eye exam in the first trimester, and follow-up eye exams throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period as recommended by their eye doctor.

High Risk Individuals

Individuals with a high risk of diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems may need more frequent exams. The longer you’ve had diabetes, the greater the risk of complications. Having other health conditions, smoking, or failing to control blood sugar also increases your risk.

Do I need an optometrist or an ophthalmologist for a diabetic eye exam?

Both optometrists and ophthalmologists perform diabetic eye exams. Usually, an eye exam from an ophthalmologist costs more.

Optometrist: Eye doctor providing primary vision care, eye health examinations and vision testing.

Ophthalmologist: Medical doctor specializing in eye care and eye surgery.

Eye Boutique optometrists can diagnose and treat a wide range of eye and vision problems. They can also help patients with diabetes detect signs of diabetic eye disease early, provide treatment and plan follow-up care to help prevent vision loss. If specialized medical care is necessary (such as an advanced case of diabetic retinopathy) we’ll refer you to a qualified local ophthalmologist.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are diabetic eye exams really that important?

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of adult blindness in the United States. It has no symptoms in early stages and gets progressively worse. Once you start having changes in your vision caused by diabetic retinopathy, treatment should be started right away. There’s no cure, but the progression can be slowed to protect your vision and prevent blindness.

Managing your diabetes, staying away from cigarettes, and having annual dilated eye exams is the best way to preserve your vision and eye health.

How long will a diabetic eye exam take?

In general, plan on around half an hour for your eye exam. Exactly how much time it takes depends on factors like your overall health, and what your optometrist finds when conducting the exam.

In most cases the dilating eye drops start to work in under 15 minutes, but it can take longer if you’re on medication for glaucoma or other condition.

Testing for Glaucoma

Having diabetes increases your risk of glaucoma. Increased pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve, leading to blind spots and eventually vision loss. Routine eye exams include measuring your eye pressure (tonometry) to screen for glaucoma.

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