Five Common Diabetic Eye Disease Symptoms

Diabetes is an alarmingly common disease in the United States. About 29 million people have it, and another 86 million adults have prediabetes. If you don’t manage your diabetes, complications can include cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and diabetic eye disease.

Diabetic eye disease is a group of diseases that are more prevalent in people with diabetes. The most common of these conditions is diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of blindness for adults in the United States. People with diabetes are also 40% more likely to develop glaucoma — another leading cause of blindness in the US — than people without diabetes.

Other eye diseases that people with diabetes are more prone to develop include cataracts and diabetic macular edema. The good news is that if these diseases are caught early, vision impairment can be reversed or halted with the right treatment.

Long-term high blood glucose levels lead to diabetic eye disease and other diabetes complications. High blood glucose levels can change fluid levels in your blood vessels, leading to swelling in your eye tissues. If this swelling gets too great, the blood vessels can become damaged and leak, causing further damage such as scarring and high pressure in your eye. Additionally, weak, abnormal blood vessels may form, leading to more issues and vision impairment.

Unfortunately, in some cases, there are no symptoms until your vision is severely impaired. In other cases, the following symptoms can be early indicators of eye disease:

Blurry vision

You can develop blurry vision when the macula (the part of your eye that helps you with sharp vision) swells from leaking fluid. Blurry vision is a sign of macular edema as well as diabetic retinopathy.

Floaters or floating spots

Spots, squiggly lines, or specks, also called floaters, that randomly appear may be a sign of bleeding from abnormal retinal blood vessels. Leaking or bleeding retinal blood vessels can be a sign of diabetic retinopathy.

Loss of peripheral vision

Gradual loss of peripheral vision, also called side vision, is sign of glaucoma.

Washed-out colors

Cloudy vision and washed-out colors are signs of advanced cataracts, which people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop than people without diabetes. People with diabetes are also more likely to get cataracts at a younger age.

Flashes of light

Damage to the blood vessels in the retina can cause new blood vessels to grow. These new blood vessels are prone to leaking and generating scar tissue. This scar tissue can pull the retina away from the back of the eye, which may cause flashes of light. If the retina pulls away too much, it can detach. Retinal detachment is a serious condition that may lead to blindness if not treated immediately.  

Diabetic Eye Disease Prevention and Treatment

Many of these conditions have no symptoms and don’t cause pain. If you have diabetes, you should have an annual eye exam to catch these eye diseases early. And make an appointment with your eye doctor if you notice any of the common symptoms of diabetic eye disease mentioned above.

You can also help prevent these eye diseases from developing by managing your diabetes. Eating a healthy, balanced low-sugar diet, taking your medications, and exercising regularly are all part of diabetes management.

For more information about diabetic eye disease and how to prevent and treat it, call us at University Retina or make your appointment online through this website. We have offices in Oak Forest, Bedford Park, Lemont, and Downers Grove, Illinois.

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