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How Can You Tell If Diabetes Is Affecting Your Eyes


Causes & Risk Factors

How Diabetes can affect your eyes and what you can do to avoid those complications

Diabetic retinopathy results from the damage diabetes causes to the small blood vessels located in the retina. These damaged blood vessels can cause vision loss:

  • Fluid can leak into the macula, the area of the retina responsible for clear central vision. Although small, the macula is the part of the retina that allows us to see colors and fine detail. The fluid causes the macula to swell, resulting in blurred vision.
  • In an attempt to improve blood circulation in the retina, new blood vessels may form on its surface. These fragile, abnormal blood vessels can leak blood into the back of the eye and block vision.

Diabetic retinopathy is classified into two types.

How Does Diabetes Develop

Researchers arent sure about the exact cause of type 1 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes is much more well known. Insulin is a hormone that the body produces which allows the sugar in your blood to access the cells in your body. Sugar is necessary for your cells to create energy, and insulin resistance usually occurs after a specific cycle develops.

First, a person is, for whatever reason, unable to make enough insulin to cover all the glucose that they eat. The body tries to make extra insulin to make up for the shortfall. The pancreas is unable to keep up with the increased need for insulin, and excess sugar floats throughout the blood doing damage instead of being absorbed by cells to create energy.


Eventually, insulin becomes less effective at helping glucose enter the cells and blood sugar levels rise ever higher. This effect is known as insulin resistance, and in type 2 diabetes it takes place gradually. Due to the gradual nature of insulin resistance, doctors recommend certain lifestyle changes to either slow the advance of the disease or halt its progress altogether.

Is Blurry Vision With Diabetes Temporary

Blurry vision can result from both short-term and long-term complications of diabetes.

Long-term eye problems stem from blood vessel damage in the retina of one or both eyes due to high blood sugar levels over the course of many years. These complications are not temporary, but treatment can slow their progression.

Short-term blurriness, due to high or low blood sugar levels, is temporary and will resolve when blood sugar levels return to normal.

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How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes

Diabetes can lead to blurry vision in several ways.

In some cases, its a minor problem that you can resolve by stabilizing your blood sugar or taking eye drops. Other times, its a sign of something more serious thats worth discussing with your doctor.

In fact, blurred sight is often one of the first warning signs of diabetes.

How To Tell If Diabetes Is Affecting Your Eyes

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It goes without saying that individuals with diabetes must give the highest priority to getting blood sugar stabilized. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a whole host of complications and body damage that theres simply not space to explore here. So, well stick to what we know best: vision care.


Below are four of the most common eye complications from diabetes, plus the single biggest thing you can do to avoid them:

  • Diabetic retinopathy. This is a common condition for diabetic patients and occurs when diabetes damages blood vessels in the eye. This damage causes symptoms such as blurry vision, floaters and black spots in the field of vision, retinal swelling , poor color perception and even blindness.
  • Glaucoma. Pressure inside the eye can damage the optic nerve leading to glaucoma. Onset can be sudden and will present itself with blurriness, eye pain and redness, nighttime halos, headaches and more.
  • Cataracts. Diabetes increases the risk of developing cataracts, which gradually cloud the lens of the eye. The symptoms are similar to glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy but may also include double vision, light sensitivity and night blindness.
  • Infections of the eye. Diabetes inhibits the ability to fight infections, including infections of the eye. This can show up as a bacterial infection of the eye or as a painful sty.
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    Treatment Options For Diabetic Eye Disease

    Your provider will work with you to develop an optimal treatment plan. Two of the most common strategies to manage diabetic eye disease include controlling your diabetes and medical management.

    Control your diabetes

    We typically recommend three key steps to control your diabetes:

  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Physical activity, such as walking or doing yoga, should be part of your daily routine. Prioritize eating a healthier diet that includes more fiber, such as beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains and fewer carbohydrates.
  • Watch your blood sugar levels. Check with your doctor how often to monitor and record your sugars. Testing your A1C levels regularly can help you stay on track.
  • Take your medications as prescribed. Sometimes blood pressure or cholesterol medication can affect your blood sugars. It’s important to take these medications as prescribed and to work with your doctor to adjust dosages if your sugar rises too high.
  • Eye medication

    During regular office visits, your ophthalmologist can administer medications directly into the eye. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy is a commonly used medication treatment to reduce retinal swelling and inhibit blood vessel growth in the retina.


    Another option is corticosteroid medication, which can reduce inflammation caused by diabetic retinopathy.

    Eye surgery

    To find out whether you or a loved one might benefit from a check-up with an ophthalmologist, call or request an appointment online.

    When Is The Best Time To Schedule A Diabetic Eye Exam

    Schedule a diabetic eye exam as soon as you notice vision problems. If youve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, the wisest move is to schedule an eye exam regularly so as to catch anything before it becomes a problem. Vision issues can be hard to detect due to the fact that eye strain is something thats commonly experienced by many people regardless of their health status.

    Diabetes is increasingly common, though great strides have been made both in preventive care and in the treatment of diabetes. If you think you may be experiencing complications due to diabetes, or if youd like to schedule an appointment to learn more about what you can do to protect your sight, .

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    How Can Diabetics Take Care Of Their Eyes

    Follow these steps now to make sure you take care of your vision in the years to come.

    • Get a comprehensive eye checkup done by your ophthalmologist at least once a year
    • Control your blood sugar levels by following a doctor-advised diet and drinking lots of clear fluids
    • Maintain and check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels from time to time
    • If youre a smoker, quit smoking and limit the consumption of alcohol
    • Add physical exercise to your daily routine and stay as active as possible

    If youre a patient with diabetes, the good news is that proper care and early detection of any diabetes-induced eye-related conditions can help manage your symptoms and preserve your vision for longer. It is advised to get your share of checkup today.

    Regular Diabetes Eye Checks

    How Diabetes Affects Your Eyes

    A regular doctor or optician does not carry out the annual eye check for people with diabetes.

    Instead, optometrist or an eye doctorcalled an ophthalmologistperforms this specialist examination.

    An eye doctor can then treat any problems that they find. Only ophthalmologists can treat a disease of the retina.


    The specialist looks at the back of the eyethe retinaafter making the pupil bigger with a drug delivered in eyedrops.

    This is the dilated eye exam, and it detects the signs of diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the retina that results from diabetes.

    If a person already has diabetic eye problems, the person will need multiple follow-up checks every year.

    During pregnancy, a person should have more regular checks.

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    Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Vision And Eyes

    Did you know that people with diabetes are 20 times more likely to get eye diseases than those without it? There are three major eye conditions that diabetics are at risk for developing: cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. To prevent these sight-threatening diseases, it’s important to control your blood sugar level and have your eyes checked at least once a year by an eye doctor.

    Do I Need To Follow Up With My Doctor After Being Diagnosed With Diabetic Eye Disease

    If you or someone you know has diabetes and mild diabetic eye disease, follow-up examinations with an ophthalmologist every year may be all that is necessary.

    If the person has a more serious disease, more frequent follow-up appointments with an ophthalmologist are required based on the severity of the disease.

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    How Long Does It Take For Diabetes To Damage The Eyes

    Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness left undiagnosed as well as untreated among working-age adults. However, it usually takes up to a few years for diabetic retinopathy to reach that stage where it can threaten your eyesight.


    How The Eye Works

    How Can You Tell If Diabetes Is Affecting Your Eyes?

    To understand what happens in eye disorders, it helps to understand how the eye works. The eye is covered with a tough outer membrane. The covering in front is clear and curved. This curved area is the cornea, which focuses light while protecting the eye.

    After light passes through the cornea, it travels through a space called the anterior chamber , through the pupil , and then through a lens that performs more focusing. Finally, light passes through another fluid-filled chamber in the center of the eye and strikes the back of the eye, the retina.

    The retina records the images focused on it and converts those images into electrical signals, which the brain receives and decodes.

    One part of the retina is specialized for seeing fine detail. This tiny area of extra-sharp vision is called the macula. Blood vessels in and behind the retina nourish the macula.

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    Symptoms Of Diabetic Retinopathy

    You won’t usually notice diabetic retinopathy in the early stages, as it doesn’t tend to have any obvious symptoms until it’s more advanced.

    However, early signs of the condition can be picked up by taking photographs of the eyes during diabetic eye screening.

    Contact your optician immediately if you experience:

    • gradually worsening vision
    • shapes floating in your field of vision
    • blurred or patchy vision
    • eye pain or redness

    These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have diabetic retinopathy, but it’s important to get them checked out. Don’t wait until your next screening appointment.

    How Are These Eye Conditions Treated

    Unfortunately, once you develop any of these diabetes-related eye problems, they cannot be reversed. Doctors can only try to prevent them from getting worse. Many times, they require surgery.


    Treating cataracts depends on how bad they are. If your cataracts arent bothering you much, you can ease symptoms by having your eyeglass prescription adjusted. When your cataracts begin to prevent you from performing your normal activities, they can be surgically removed.

    Diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular edema are a bit more difficult to manage. Eye drops are used to help keep the pressure and swelling to a minimum, but one of the following may also need to be done:

    • . This is a type of laser surgery to help treat retina problems and macular edema. It involves sealing the blood vessels around your retina that are most likely to start leaking.

    • Vitrectomy. If the blood vessels in your retina are leaking a lot of fluid, your doctor may recommend this procedure to remove blood from inside your eye as well as any scar tissue on your retina.

    • Injectable eye medications. These are an option for those with glaucoma or macular edema. There are a few injectable medications for glaucoma , and they stop your eye from making new blood vessels that can leak more fluid into your eye and increase eye pressure. For macular edema, injectable medications include steroids and anti-inflammatories that help reduce and control swelling.

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    When To See A Doctor For Diabetic Eye Disease

    Even if the person is not experiencing any symptoms due to diabetes, the person should have an annual eye examination by an ophthalmologist . If the ophthalmologist notices any significant signs of diabetic eye disease or if the person requires treatment, exams may need to be scheduled more frequently than annually.

    If the person notes any significant changes in vision other than a mild temporary blurring, they should contact an ophthalmologist immediately.


    Questions to ask the doctor about diabetes and eye problems

    • Are there any signs of permanent damage to my eyes from diabetes?
    • Is there any significant loss of vision? If so, is this loss of vision permanent?
    • Are there any signs of cataracts or glaucoma?
    • Do I need any treatment at this time for any problems with my eyes?
    • How often do I need to be examined?

    The Connection Between Diabetes And Cataracts

    how does diabetes affect the eyes ?

    People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cataracts than other adults and cataracts are more likely to show up at a younger age. Cataracts cause your natural lens to become cloudy, leading to blurry, hazy or less colorful vision. Over time, you may need surgery to restore your sight.

    With diabetes, you have a higher risk of swelling in the retina, also known as macular edema, after cataract surgery. This is especially true if you have diabetic retinopathy. Either way, your ophthalmologist may want you to be checked by a retinal specialist prior to cataract surgery and receive pre-treatment if necessary. Therapies may include steroid or anti-VEGF injections aimed to control inflammation in the retina.

    In cataract surgery, your cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens, also called an intraocular lens . While IOLs come in different options, your choices may be more limited if you have diabetes. For example, if you have or are at risk for DR, multifocal IOLs may not be the best option because they could reduce contrast sensitivity or visual acuity. Toric IOLs, which correct astigmatism, may not be a good choice if you have diabetic retinopathy because your vision could change over time, making your IOL less effective. Your surgeon should review your history and help guide you to the best IOL for you.

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    Risks And Side Effects

    Possible risks and side effects of anti-VEGF injections include:


    • eye irritation or discomfort
    • floaters or a feeling of having something in your eye
    • watery or dry, itchy eyes

    There’s also a risk that the injections could cause blood clots to form, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. This risk is small, but it should be discussed with you before you give your consent to treatment.

    The main risk with steroid injections is increased pressure inside the eye.

    Dr Bruce E Reid & Associates Eye Clinic And Diabetes In Buford Georgia

    Many eye diseases can be quickly and easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. If you were diagnosed with an eye disease, such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, Diabetic retinopathy, or Dry eye, you may be overwhelmed by the diagnosis and confused about what happens next. Will you need medications or surgery now or in the future? Our Buford eye doctor has prepared the following answers to your questions about eye disease.

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    Dry Eyes And Screen Use

    Dry eyes are a common cause of blurriness. One cause of dry eyes is when blinking is reduced over long periods of looking at a screen. Computer workers may notice blurred vision due to dry eyes.

    To prevent dry eyes, try the following:

    • changing the lighting
    • taking breaks away from the screen

    It is important to get an eyesight check from an optometrist, too.

    What Eye Complications Can Stem From Diabetes

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    Diabetes, no matter the type, can increase your risk for many serious health problems. Luckily, with proper treatment and lifestyle changes, the onset of complications can be delayed if not avoided altogether. One of the most widely known and talked about complications that arise from diabetes are eye complications.

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    Manage Your Blood Sugar Like A Pro

    Over time, elevated blood sugar levels damage the tiny blood vessels that provide oxygen and other vital nutrients to the retina, nerves, and other soft-tissue structures within your eyes. This often begins during the prediabetic phase, when your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough for a formal diagnosis of diabetes.

    Most sight-threatening diabetic eye diseases begin with damage to these blood vessels. Keeping your blood sugar normal through diet, exercise, and prescribed medications can keep your blood vessels healthy and your eyesight intact.

    Eat A Healthy Diet Get More Active And Give Up Smoking

    We know all these things are good for us but its especially important for you as it helps keep your blood sugars in your target range. But why does being healthy make a difference? And can foods prevent diabetic retinopathy?

    No specific foods can prevent retinopathy. But theres lots of evidence that shows eating certain foods can help with blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol. And thats what you need to help reduce your risk of eye complications.

    This sounds simple, but its not easy for everyone. Start small and build up we have lots of information and support to help you make these positive lifestyle changes. Being healthy will make a real difference to preventing eye damage in the future.

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