Skip to Main Content

Diabetes and Your Vision

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and to honor that we would like to share some information about how diabetes affects your vision. People with diabetes have a high risk of blindness, although most only have minor eye disorders. For that reason, it is important for diabetics to stay on top of their eye health.

There are three general disorders that are related to diabetes; Glaucoma, Cataracts and Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetes is a chronic, long term condition in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the person’s insulin production is inadequate, the body’s cells don’t respond properly, or both. Most people with diabetes develop high blood pressure. When the pressure builds up in the eyes, it can pinch blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve and this is what causes Glaucoma. Vision is gradually lost due to the damaged retina and optic nerve. Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop Glaucoma than people without diabetes.

Cataracts are common among all people, but diabetes causes cataracts to occur at a younger age and progress more rapidly. The lens inside the eye helps focus light to the retina for clear vision and is made up of mostly water and protein. The water and protein are what help keep the lens clear and vision sharp, but sometimes the protein may clump together and cause vision to cloud. This is what we call a Cataract and people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop them.

Diabetic Retinopathy is a general term used for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. There are two major forms of retinopathy, nonproliferative and proliferative. Nonproliferative Retinopathy is most common and is when capillaries in back of the eye balloon and form pouches. Proliferative Retinopathy is a more progressed form in which those pouches damage the blood vessels so much that they close off. New, weak blood vessels then grow and can leak and cause blocked vision. The new vessels can also allow scar tissue to grow, which can distort the retina or cause retinal detachment.

These conditions can sound scary and alarming, but the good news is that they are treatable either through drops, oral medicine, or surgery. The key to managing these disorders are regular visits with your eye doctor. It is important for all patients to maintain their ocular health regularly, but due to the increased risks that come with diabetes, diabetics need to be extra diligent. If you notice any changes in your vision, it is important to talk to your doctor. You can schedule your next appointment by clicking here.