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The Diabetic Eye

Although most people have heard of diabetes, not as many people understand the vision-related complications. The increased levels of glucose that are the essence of the disease can pose a risk to your eyes in a number of ways.

There are a number of ways that diabetes, particularly when it is not controlled by medication, diet or exercise, can cause damage to your eyes.

One of the most serious ways that diabetes can affect your eye is by damaging the blood vessels that lead to the retina. This is one of the most common causes of vision loss in adults and is called diabetic retinopathy.

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye, which is a necessary component for proper vision. Retinal damage can cause permanent blindness. While controlling diabetes can reduce the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy, it does not entirely eliminate the risk and consequently it is of utmost importance to have your eyes examined at least once a year if you have diabetes.

Daily changes in glucose levels, a common condition when diabetes is uncontrolled, can affect the eye's crystalline lens. Since glucose levels are linked to your lens's ability to maintain sharp focus, this can result in blurry vision that varies with glucose levels.

Diabetics are at greater risk to develop cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded, which causes vision problems. Cataracts are a common condition that comes with aging, but develops earlier in life in individuals with diabetes.

Glaucoma, which is caused by increased interoptic fluid pressure, can lead to blindness. People with diabetes are two times more likely to develop glaucoma.

The best prevention for conditions related to diabetes is for diabetics to control their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to eat properly, exercise and refrain from smoking. Since eye damage is often not noticeable until damage has occurred it is essential to schedule annual retinal exams with an optometrist to detect any damage at the earliest stages. While often any loss of sight that results from diabetic eye disease in any form is permanent, further vision loss can be slowed by early diagnosis.

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