Diabetes and Eyesight: How Does Diabetes Affect the Eyes?

Date: 2018-10-01

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of vision loss. It’s important for those who are diabetic to be vigilant about their eye health and regularly schedule exams.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to effectively produce and use insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood.

When blood glucose counts are too high, damage can occur to the heart, kidneys, blood vessels and even the tiny blood vessels in your retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy can cause these blood vessels to swell, leak or completely close  –stopping blood from passing through.

There are many different symptoms of diabetic retinopathy including:

  • Increasing floaters in the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Vision that alternates from blurry to clear
  • Dark areas in your field of vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Seeing washed out colors

Diabetic retinopathy symptoms usually present in both eyes.

How is Diabetic Retinopathy Diagnosed?

Your eye doctor will perform a dilated retinal eye exam, where drops are added to your eyes to dilate or widen the pupil to allow more light to enter the eye – the same way an open door lets more light into a dark room.

This allows the eye doctor to better see the back of the eyes and examine them for any signs of damage or disease.

Other Diabetes-Related Eye Conditions

People with diabetes are also more at risk for developing cataracts from changes to the lens due to excess blood sugar. Some of the most common cataract symptoms include blurred vision and glare.

Glaucoma can also occur in individuals who are diabetic. This disease occurs when pressure builds up inside the eyes and fluid is unable to drain. Glaucoma can damage blood vessels and nerves, causing changes in vision. If you experience headaches, eye pain, blurry vision, watery eyes, halos or vision loss, see your eye care professional immediately.

How Do I Protect Myself From Eye Problems Associated with Diabetes?

The most important step to protecting your vision and warding off potential problems is to manage your diabetes by keeping your blood sugar in check. Stick to a well-balanced diet full of leafy greens and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to eye health.

Other ways to reduce your risk of diabetes-related eye complications include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Not smoking
  • Wearing sunglasses when outdoors
  • Having regular dilated eye exams

Work with an eye doctor who has experience with diabetes care to detect issues early and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Ninety percent of diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented if managed correctly.