Diabetes and Your Eyes
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that prevents your body from making or
using insulin, which in turn leads to increased sugar levels in your
bloodstream, known as high blood sugar.
How does diabetes affect the eye?
Diabetes and its complications can affect many parts of the eye. Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness
and premature presbyopia
(the inability to focus on close objects). It can result in cataracts
paralysis of the nerves that control the eye muscles or pupil, and
decreased corneal sensitivity. Visual symptoms of diabetes include
fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, loss of visual field, and flashes and floaters within the eyes. Sometimes these early signs of diabetes are first detected in an eye examination
performed by a doctor of optometry. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.
What is retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the
tiny blood vessels in the retina of your eye, resulting in blood
leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes. If diabetic
retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can result.
Can vision loss from diabetes be prevented?
Yes, in a routine eye examination, your doctor of optometry can diagnose
potential vision threatening changes in your eye that may be treated to
prevent blindness. However, once damage has occurred, the effects are
usually permanent. It is important to control your diabetes as much as
possible to minimize your risk of developing retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy is monitored through eye
health examinations. If necessary, it may be treated with intraocular
injections of anti-VEGF therapy (Lucentis, Avastin) or laser therapy. A
bright beam of light is focused on the retina, causing a laser burn that
seals off leaking blood vessels. In other cases, retinal surgery may be
necessary. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial, as
treatment is much more likely to be successful at an early stage.
Are there risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy?
Several factors that increase the risk of developing diabetic
retinopathy include smoking, high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and
How can diabetes-related eye problems be prevented?
Monitor and maintain control of your diabetes. See your physician
regularly and follow instructions about diet, exercise and medication.
See your doctor of optometry for a thorough eye examination when you are
first diagnosed with diabetes, at least annually thereafter and more
frequently if recommended.