How can type 2 diabetes cause eye disease?


Patients with type 2 diabetes can run into a variety of eye problems such as dry eye, cataract, glaucoma, and most importantly, changes in the blood vessels in the back of the eye (diabetic retinopathy). Patients with type 2 diabetes may develop this retinopathy much more quickly than those who are insulin dependent (also known as type 1) diabetes. It is said that there is a greater chance of developing changes in the blood vessels or swelling in the center of the retina, the macula, within 5 years of being diagnosed as type 2 diabetic than in 15 years from the diagnosis of becoming an insulin dependent diabetic.

High blood sugar, if uncontrolled and continuing over several years, can cause the walls of the small blood vessels (capillaries) in the retina of the eye to thicken and scar and to become weakened and form small outpouchings (microaneurysms) that can rupture (hemorrhage) in the retina. Disruptions in the microcirculation also result in the formation of new capillary blood vessels, which in turn go through the same cycle. Together, these changes can damage vision and result in loss of vision.

Type 2 diabetes commonly affects organs with small blood vessels, such as the eye. High blood sugars cause the lining of blood vessels to thicken and make it difficult for these small vessels to dilate (open up) and constrict (clamp down) appropriately. Over time, this stress causes blood vessels to become leaky and weak, leading to diabetic eye disease called diabetic retinopathy.

Continue Learning about Diabetic Retinopathy (Eye Damage)

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.