Diabetes and Its Effect on Your Eye Health

‚ÄčDid you know that diabetes can affect your eyesight? Diabetes is a metabolic disease that prevents the body from processing and utilizing glucose. Excess glucose in the bloodstream can cause many health problems in the skin, kidneys, nerves, feet and eyes. Prolonged, elevated blood sugar can cause the lens of the eye to swell, alter vision and cause significant eye damage. Three conditions that can result from not regulating blood sugar levels are cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.


A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. The lens is comprised of mainly water and protein. Over time, protein in the lens clumps together and forms a clouded area called a cataract. Cataracts are common and are usually a result of age, sun exposure and oxidation. However, diseases like diabetes can cause cataract formation quicker and at an earlier age. The good news about cataracts is that they can be treated. Cataract surgery effectively removes cataracts and is one of the safest and most common outpatient procedures in the United States.

Diabetic Retinopathy

The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue on the inner surface of the eye. Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels in the body, which includes the vessels of the eye. In early stages of diabetic retinopathy, weakened blood vessels can leak blood and fluid. This stage is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and there may be no initial symptoms. Over time, these retinal blood vessels close and abnormal blood vessels replace them. This stage is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy and can lead to retinal detachment, vision loss, increased eye pressure and blindness.


When pressure increases in the eye, the optic nerve can be damaged. Intraocular pressure is high in most types of glaucoma. This is the amount of pressure on the inside of the eye. Glaucoma often has no symptoms until permanent eye damage occurs. Glaucoma can be controlled with medication, eye drops and in some cases, surgical procedures. There is no cure for glaucoma, and eye damage resulting from glaucoma is irreversible.

Take responsibility for your diabetes and your eyesight

Diabetes affects almost every system in the body: circulatory, nervous, endocrine, gastrointestinal and excretory. Controlling blood sugar is paramount for the maintenance of your body systems, and it is important to stay in close communication with your eye doctor and general practitioner. Choices that you make today will affect your body permanently, so listen to your doctor, stay current with your comprehensive eye exams and test your blood sugar several times per day.