Your eye doctor may be the first to diagnose you with diabetes - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Your eye doctor may be the first to diagnose you with diabetes

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MADISON (WKOW) -- With all of those holiday treats readily available this time of year, it's important to remember to indulge in moderation.  Otherwise, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise when you go see your eye doctor. 

When doctors examine their patients, they are checking more than whether or not their vision has changed.  "The retina has blood vessels where it's the only visible blood vessels you can see in the body that you don't have to look through tissue in order to see," says Dr. Tessa Sokol, an optometrist at Sokol Advanced EyeCare in Madison. 

Those blood vessels can reveal complications, including diabetes. 

"It's called diabetic retinopathy," says Dr. Sokol.  "We usually see the blood vessels having bleeding, or they're throwing out lipids into the retina, which if getting severe enough, can be sight-threatening."  

She says she sees this in her patients almost on a weekly basis. 

"It's unfortunately a very sensitive conversation I must have with them about taking care of themselves.  The good news is a lot of it can be prevented.  If you detect it in an eye exam, you can actually control your diabetes... to prevent more serious issues."

Dr. Sokol coordinates with an internal medicine doctor to help patients get their blood sugar under control. 

"We tell them to avoid carbohydrates and processed foods.  We tell them to take supplements like Omega 3s.  We have a very good conversation about exercise and how all of the things that they can do in their life can actually help control their diabetes and prevent blindness and other diseases that diabetes causes," says Dr. Sokol. 

According to the CDC, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in working-age adults.  The Wisconsin Optometric Association recommends, whether you are in need of an eye prescription or not, to get an eye exam every year. 

Sokol adds, it's not just diabetes that eye doctors can find during an exam.  High risk of stroke and high blood pressure are other examples. 

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