How can diabetes affect my eyes?

If you have diabetes, your eyes are at special risk. The leading cause of blindness in adults under 65 is diabetic retinopathy, in which small blood vessels in the eyes weaken and burst. The condition affects nearly everyone with type 1 diabetes and 60% of those with type 2 within 20 years of diagnosis.

You're also more likely to develop cataracts and glaucoma, a condition in which pressure builds in the eye, eventually destroying the optic nerve and leading to vision loss.

The good news? Early diagnosis and effective blood-sugar and blood-pressure control can prevent blindness in about 90% of cases of diabetic retinopathy. As someone with diabetes, it's best to get those screenings from a qualified ophthalmologist. You should be screened immediately upon diagnosis and at least every year thereafter.
Healthy Humans
Diabetes increases the chance of experiencing an eye disorder, although many such disorders are minor. But diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people ages 20 to 74, and thus should not be taken lightly. People with diabetes should have regular eye exams in order to identify and treat problems as they arise.

High blood sugar causes the lens of the eye to swell, resulting in blurred vision. Returning to a target blood sugar range should eventually improve this condition. Ongoing blurred vision might indicate one of three eye complications that are common to diabetics: retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Retinopathy, caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina, is the most common diabetic eye disease. In one stage of retinopathy, capillaries in the eye swell and develop pouches, which can lead to blurred vision. At a more advanced stage, blood vessel damage leads to scar tissue and the growth of weaker, leaking blood vessels. Sometimes there are no symptoms of this retinal damage, which is just another reason to stay on top of regular eye exams.

Blurred or glared vision might be a sign of a cataract, a clouding of the lens of the eye. Diabetics are 60 percent more likely than non-diabetics to develop the condition, more likely to develop it at an early age, and more likely to have the condition progress rapidly. Wearing glare‐control glasses and sunglasses might help with mild cataracts; more developed cataracts are usually surgically removed.

Heightened pressure in the eye can cause glaucoma, which results in inadequate drainage of liquid in the eye, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and limited blood flow to the retina and the optic nerve. Glaucoma might not be accompanied by early symptoms. It is often treated with eye drops, laser surgery, or other forms of surgery.

Integrative Health Solution: Recommendations:
  • Good UV blocking sunglasses
  • 1,000mg vitamin C and 1,000 mg MSM daily
  • Consider L‐carnosine eye drops 2‐3 times daily.
William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
Diabetes-related damage to the retina is called retinopathy, and it can lead to blindness. High blood sugar is the leading cause of eye trouble for people with diabetes, but even if your blood sugar is perfect, you need to have your eyes checked every year. If trouble is detected early, there is much that can be done. But not if you wait until you're blind.
Diabetes Warrior: Be your own knight in shining armor. How to stay healthy and happy with diabetes.

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Diabetes Warrior: Be your own knight in shining armor. How to stay healthy and happy with diabetes.

You survived the first year: now there is more to learn... Knights? Dragons? Diabetes?! Yep, armed with a wickedly sharp sense of humor and a medieval metaphor, Taming the Tiger author William Lee...
Diabetes can hurt your eyes in several ways. High blood glucose (sugar) levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. High blood pressure can also damage these blood vessels. Damaged vessels break and bleed. Fragile new vessels shrink, pulling the retina from the back of the eye.

Continue Learning about Diabetes Complications

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.