Diabetes is a disease that affects nearly a quarter of people over age 65, and many younger people as well. Diabetes occurs when a person’s blood sugar (or blood glucose) is too high due to the body’s inability to produce or properly utilize insulin. Insulin helps the body to convert the food that we eat into energy that can be used by the body’s cells. There are several different types of diabetes that affect the body in different ways, but each type affects the eyes.

Diabetes and Eyes

Although diabetes is not specifically an eye disease, the dangers that it poses for eyes cannot be overlooked. Diabetes and eyes are closely linked together. Diabetes, and the increased blood sugar that comes along with it, has the potential to cause permanent damage to the eyes if not managed correctly. Diabetic eye diseases require proper preventative measures and treatment to keep the eyes healthy while managing diabetes.

Diabetic Eye Problems

Diabetic eye problems include diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Each of these conditions can result in permanent vision loss due to diabetes. These eye conditions also often do not show symptoms until vision loss begins to occur.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugar levels cause blood vessels within the eye to swell. These swollen blood vessels can leak or even block blood flow through the eye. This is the most common cause of vision loss in those with diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can be treated in several different ways depending upon the severity. Medications can be taken orally or injected into the eye to prevent swelling. Laser surgery or traditional surgery can be performed to either shrink swollen blood vessels or remove blood vessels and fluid that is too damaged.


Cataracts occur when the eye’s lens becomes clouded and foggy, making vision unclear. Cataracts are treated with a surgical procedure to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear, artificial lens to restore vision.

Glaucoma: Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve within the eye. This damage is caused by elevated pressure within the eye and can lead to permanent vision loss.

Cataracts and glaucoma are both significantly more common in those who suffer from diabetes.

Diabetic Eye Exam

Once a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, they are encouraged to attend yearly eye exams to monitor the health of the eyes and prevent irreversible damage from occurring.  The good news is that when properly managed, it is very possible to prevent these eye diseases from causing permanent damage.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes it is important to attend eye exams as recommended by your doctor for preventative care. Even those with good vision who do not need prescription glasses need to monitor the health of their eyes and will benefit from regular eye exams.