Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic eye disease is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to vision loss and blindness. If you have diabetes, it’s important to get regular eye exams to check for diabetic eye disease.

Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes that can lead to vision loss and blindness. It happens when diabetes affects the small blood vessels in your eyes, preventing them from getting enough oxygen.

Diabetes mainly affects the retina, the film part of the eye with many blood vessels. When the blood sugar level is too high, it's toxic to these vessels, making them leak and bleed. When the retina is swollen or covered with blood clots and scars, they don't take clear pictures, and patients’ vision gets blurry.


Symptoms of diabetic eye disease include the following: 

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty seeing in low light or at night
  • Red, sore, itchy eyes
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Floating spots or dark strings in your vision

However, patients may not have symptoms at all at the early and moderate stages of diabetic retinopathy. That's why patients with diabetes should have a complete eye exam with the pupil dilated to detect early treatable retinopathy before too much damage is done and irreversible.

Who Does it Affect?

Diabetic patients with poor blood sugar control and blood pressure tend to have a high risk of retinopathy. Smoking, being overweight, and lack of exercise also increase the risk of visual loss due to diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working Americans aged 20 to 65. Their vision can be so blurry that they can't work, drive, or even care for themselves. Elderly diabetic patients may also have a high risk for retinopathy since they tend to have diabetes for much longer than younger people, which can lead to falls and injury.

There's no cure for diabetic eye disease, but if it's caught early, it can be treated to prevent vision loss or blindness. You can protect your eyes by:

  • Getting regular eye exams
  • Taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • Protecting your eyes from injury and infection

There are several different types of diabetic eye disease, including:

  • Cataracts cloud the eye's natural lens, which is treated with surgery.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the blood vessels in your eyes and may cause vision loss or blindness.
  • Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve of your eyes and may cause blindness. There are two types of glaucoma: primary and secondary.