Diabetes and Eye Disease: What’s the connection?


People affected with diabetes develop unexpected complications due to the varying glucose levels in the body. Although glucose is an important source of energy for the body’s cells, too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause damage in many parts of the body, including the heart, kidneys, blood vessels and the small blood vessels in the eyes.

Eyes, in specific are affected the most. Studies reveal that 85 percent of Diabetic people could develop eye problems, but the intensity varies from person to person. While some may just have minor temporary blur which can be fixed with treatment, there are cases where people permanently lose their vision.
However the good news is that 90 percent of diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented, but early detection is the key.

That’s why it’s vital to know why you are at risk of eye diseases and what you can do to fix them. We’ve got all the facts and advice to help you do it.

What is Diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may develop as a complication of disease. People with diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma, which are often referred to under the umbrella term of Diabetic Eye disease.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eyes (retina). This creates dark blotches across our field of vision. At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. Eventually, it can lead to complete blindness.


Cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. The lens of our eyes is normally filled with transparent proteins. When these proteins clump together, they block our vision.


Glaucoma causes increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision.

How does glucose affect eyes?

High glucose can change fluid levels or cause swelling in the tissues of your eyes. This causes blurring of vision. Continued high sugar- damages tiny blood vessels in the back of your eyes. Damaged blood vessels may leak fluid and cause swelling. These blood vessels can bleed into the middle part of the eye and lead to scarring or increase in eye pressure.

However, studies reveal that the blurriness can be fixed when blood glucose down to normal range. If blurriness doesn’t go away when glucose levels are close to normal, you might have retinopathy. Fortunately, it’s preventable and treatable too.

Risk factors to develop Diabetic eye disease

  • High blood sugar: The higher the level of blood sugar, the greater is the risk of developing retinopathy.
  • Duration of diabetes – The longer a person suffers from diabetes, the greater the risk of developing retinopathy. Nearly 90% of people who have had diabetes for over 10 years are at increased risk to develop some extent of diabetic retinopathy.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure in itself is detrimental to the retinal blood vessels and can cause hypertensive retinopathy. Therefore, among people with both a raised blood sugar level and high blood pressure, the risk of diabetic retinopathy still higher.
  • Smoking: Smokers are at a greater risk of blood vessel disorders, including retinopathy.
  • Symptoms of Diabetes eye Disease

    Often there are no early symptoms of diabetic eye disease. It’s rather progressive with no changes in vision or no pain initially.

    However, When symptoms do occur, they may include

    • blurry or wavy vision
    • frequently changing vision—sometimes from day to day
    • dark areas or vision loss
    • poor color vision
    • spots or dark strings (also called floaters)
    • flashes of light

    Regular Check-ups can save your day

    Diabetes is such a disease that largely depends on the how well you control it. Particularly, regular check ups reduce the probability of worsening of the symptoms and contributes to a peaceful living inspite of being Diabetic.
    You can reduce your risk of getting diabetic retinopathy by doing the following:

    • Keeping your blood sugar as close to normal as possible will help reduce your risk levels

    • Manage your diabetes- Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise activity, such as walking, each week. Take oral diabetes medications or insulin as directed.

    • Monitor your blood sugar level- You may need to check and record your blood sugar level several times a day — more-frequent measurements may be required if you’re ill or under stress. Ask your doctor how often you need to test your blood sugar.

    • Check your glycosylated hemoglobin level- The glycosylated hemoglobin test, or hemoglobin A1C test, reflects your average blood sugar level for the two- to three-month period before the test. For most people, the HbA1C goal is to be under 7 percent.

    • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and losing excess weight can help. Sometimes medication is needed, too.

    • If you smoke,quit the same as soon as possible- Smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications, including diabetic retinopathy.

    • Pay attention to vision changes. Contact your eye doctor right away if you experience sudden vision changes or your vision becomes blurry, spotty or hazy. Have a dilated eye exam at least once a year – early detection of diabetic eye disease reduces the risk of blindness.


    The best way to prevent an eye problem, or stop it from progressing, is to make regular visits to your eye doctor. You should always call your eye doctor if you have any sudden changes in vision.

    Remember, diabetes doesn’t necessarily lead to vision loss. Taking an active role in diabetes management can go a long way toward preventing complications. After all, prevention is always better than cure.

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