How Diabetes Can Affect the Health of Your Eyes

High blood sugar, the hallmark symptom of diabetes, can affect many parts of your body including your feet, your heart, your kidneys, and your nerves, if you don’t managed it well. Your eyes are no exception and are not immune to the health repercussions of unchecked high blood sugar.

Diabetic eye disease is a group of diseases related to diabetes that can all lead to vision loss and blindness. In fact, diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in adults. But the good news is that about 90% of diabetes-related vision loss is preventable — if detected early.

Early detection and treatment can reduce your risk for eye disease and vision loss. Managing your diabetes and watching your blood sugar levels can also help reduce your risk for eye disease.

Diabetic eye disease symptoms

Diabetes can affect your eye health in many ways. Some eye conditions have few or no symptoms until they reach an advanced stage and begin to impair your vision. That’s why you need a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year if you have diabetes. Some symptoms, depending on the eye condition, include:

Common diabetic eye diseases

If you have high blood sugar for an extended period, it can damage the blood vessels in your eyes. Most diabetic eye diseases start with blood vessel problems. The most common eye diseases related to diabetes include:

Diabetic retinopathy

When your blood sugar stays high for some time, it can damage the blood vessels in your retina, which is in the back of your eye. Over time, these damaged blood vessels can swell and leak, leading to blurry vision and, eventually, severe vision impairment.

Diabetic macular edema

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


People with diabetes are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma as are those without diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your chances of developing glaucoma, which 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.  


People with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts than people without diabetes and to develop them at a younger age. Cataracts are clumps of protein that form and cloud your eye lenses. As the cataract grows larger, it impairs more of your vision.

For more information about how diabetes can affect the health of your eyes and how to treat and manage diabetic eye conditions, call us at one of our four University Retina locations or request an appointment using our online form.

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