Since 1995 - Non Profit Healthcare Advice

Diabetes-Related Eye Diseases–More than Just a Blur!

Did you know diabetes is the main cause of blindness for 20-74 year olds? And, the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have a diabetes-related eye disease. These eye conditions include:

  • cataract
  • vision fluctuation
  • double vision
  • retinopathy.

But, you can prevent vision loss from these diseases by getting an eye exam each year!


Diabetes- Related Eye Conditions

Cataract: One way diabetes harms your vision is by forming a cataract. When this happens, the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, making it harder for you to see clearly. It also occurs more often and at a younger age in people with diabetes.

Vision Fluctuation: When your blood sugar is very high, your lens absorbs extra sugar and fluid. As a result, your lens gets larger, making distance vision unclear. As you lower your blood sugar, your vision will return to normal. If your blood sugar is not well-controlled, this will happen more often.

Double vision: Diabetes can cause double vision where you see two images separated:

  • side-to-side
  • up and down
  • diagonally.

Double vision most commonly occurs when there is damage to the nerve that controls your eye muscles. But, your vision can get better over time by keeping your blood sugar controlled. with controlled blood sugar. 

Retinopathy: Diabetes can affect the retina, the light sensitive part of the eye. Each year 7.5% of diabetics will develop diabetic retinopathy. This is when there is damage to the small blood vessels that bring nutrients to the retina.  Healthy blood vessels do not leak, but damaged vessels do.  Leaking vessels can cause:

  • small hemorrhages or areas that bleed.
  • fats (lipids) to clump together. This causes retina damage and swelling.

The swelling can harm vision but it may be treatable. If there is a lot of damage to the small blood vessels, then new vessels may start to grow. These new vessels can cause very serious problems, making laser treatment necessary.


Avoid Diabetes Eye Disease if you Can  

If you are diabetic, you are 25 times more likely to become blind than those who do not have diabetes. But, by controlling your blood sugar, you can protect your vision. Work with your doctor or endocrinologist can help you manage your diabetes. 

If during your yearly eye exam your eye doctor finds major eye disease, he or she may use a laser treatment to remove the damage. To limit vision loss, you would likely need to see your eye doctor more than once a year. If you have serious vision loss, low vision aids may be helpful, such as magnifiers that can help you see more clearly and improve your quality of life.

Keep your vision clear and prevent vision loss by seeing your eye doctor once a year.  


Points to Remember

  • Have a yearly dilated eye exam.
  • Control your blood sugar.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Control your blood pressure.


Hope Through Research – You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about eye diseases. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:



1. Last accessed May 12, 2012.

2. Klein R, Klein B. Vision disorders in diabetes. In: National Diabetes Data Group, ed. Diabetes in America.2nd ed. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 1995:293-337.

3. Zhang X. et al. Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in the United States, 2005-2008. The Journal of the American Medical Association 2010;304(6):649-656.

4. Varma R, et al. Four-year incidence and progression of diabetic retinopathy and macular edema: the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study. American Journal of Ophthalmology 2010;149:752-761.

5. Last accessed May 12, 2012.

6. Pollreisz A & Schmidt-Erfurth U. Diabetic Cataract Pathogenesis, Epidemiology and Treatment. Journal of Ophthalmology 2010;2010:608751. Epub 2010 Jun 17

7. Diabetes Control and Complications Trial Research Group. The effect of intensive treatment of diabetes on the development and progression of long-term complications in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The New England Journal of Medicine 1993;329(14):977-86.

8. UK Prospective Diabetes Study Group. Tight blood pressure control and risk of macrovascular and microvascular complications in type 2 diabetes: UKPDS 38. British Medical Journal 1998;317(7160):703-713.


For more information:

Go to the Eye and Vision Care health topic.