How Diabetes Can Affect the Health of Your Eyes

November is National Diabetes Month and Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to talk about how diabetes can affect your eyesight. Diabetic eye disease is a group of conditions that commonly affect people with diabetes. The goal of this awareness campaign is to encourage people with diabetes to seek treatment for vision problems related to diabetes.

Diabetes is widespread in this country, affecting about 29 million with another 86 million adults having prediabetes. All people with diabetes are at risk for problems with the their vision. In fact, diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults.

Fortunately, early detection, treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can reduce your risk for eye disease and vision loss. Managing your diabetes by taking your medication and watching your blood sugar levels can also help reduce your risk. The eye diseases that people with diabetes are prone to include:

Diabetic retinopathy

When your blood sugar stays high over time, it can damage the blood vessels in your retina, which is in the back of your eye. The retina’s role is to convert light into nerve signals that are sent to your brain and interpreted as images. Damaged retinal blood vessels can swell and leak, which may lead to blurry vision. Over time, these damaged blood vessels become sealed, and new abnormal blood vessels develop. If left untreated, these damaged blood vessels can severely impact your vision.

Diabetic macular edema

The macula is the central part of your retina, and it helps you to read, drive, and see fine details. High blood sugar levels can lead to swelling in the macula. If left untreated, the swelling can damage your macula, impairing your ability to see fine details and can eventually lead to blindness. Macular edema usually develops in people with diabetes who already have diabetic retinopathy.


People with diabetes more likely to develop glaucoma as people without diabetes. Glaucoma is a group of diseases where the pressure builds up in the eye due to excess fluid. This pressure can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision impairment and blindness.


Cataracts are a common eye condition for older adults. People with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts than people without diabetes, and may also develop them at a younger age. Cataract forms when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy. In the early stages, cataracts don’t affect your vision severely. But as they become more dense, more of your vision is more significantly impaired.

Diabetic eye disease prevention

Because these eye diseases often don’t have symptoms until the disease has advanced, getting regular comprehensive eye exams, including a dilated eye exam, can help detect and treat these conditions before they can cause too much damage.

You should also schedule an eye exam if you experience blurriness, flashers or floaters, eye pain or pressure, or any change in your vision.


For more information about diabetic eye disease and how to prevent or treat it, call KLM Eye MDs in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, or make an appointment online

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