Understanding Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic eye disease is not a single condition, but a group of eye issues that may affect people with diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss for American adults, but regular eye exams can help prevent the vast majority of diabetes vision loss cases.1
Eye conditions that are commonly associated with diabetes include:
Diabetic retinopathy is a result of high blood glucose causing damage to the blood vessels in the retina (the lining at the back of the eye where light is focused). In patients with diabetic retinopathy, these blood vessels may leak, swell, or completely close off, causing vision loss.
In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy may not show any symptoms, but may still be diagnosed during a thorough eye exam. As this diabetic eye disease progresses, patients may notice dark spots, floaters, or streaks in their field of vision that are caused by broken blood vessels in the retina bleeding into the vitreous (the gel in the center of the eye). If not treated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to additional eye conditions and is the leading cause of vision loss in diabetes patients.2
High blood glucose can damage the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak, swell, or close off. This may also lead to the growth of abnormal new vessels on the retina’s surface.
Macular edema can be a complication of diabetic retinopathy, and is a result of damaged blood vessels leaking fluid into the macula, causing swelling. This can lead to blurred vision, central vision that appears wavy, and/or a muted appearance to colors. In patients with diabetes, controlling blood sugar and blood pressure may help reduce swelling caused by macular edema. Our experienced ophthalmologists can also perform additional treatments to reduce the effects of macular edema.
Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens of the eye, and are a common age-related eye condition. Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cataracts at an earlier age. Early-stage cataracts may not significantly impede a person’s vision, but all cataracts will eventually need to be surgically treated.
In individuals with glaucoma, an accumulation of fluid in the front part of the eye puts damaging pressure on the optic nerve. Early stages of glaucoma may not be symptomatic, and patients may not be aware they have this disease until they have already suffered vision loss. While glaucoma cannot be cured, proper and early treatment can alleviate symptoms and help prevent further vision loss.
People with diabetes are at a two-times higher risk of developing glaucoma, so it is especially important for diabetic patients to undergo regular eye exams.3
People with diabetes are at a higher risk for retinal detachment, which is a medical emergency caused by the retina pulling away from the rest of the eye. Immediate symptoms of retinal detachment include immediate blurred vision, the appearance of flashing lights, sudden floaters, the appearance of a shadow in the side vision, or a gray curtain over part of the visual field. Retinal detachment must be quickly treated by an ophthalmologist in order to preserve vision and prevent further damage to the eye.4
How Often Should You Have Your Eyes Examined?
If you have diabetes, it is crucial that you undergo a thorough eye exam at least once every year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 90% of vision loss linked to diabetes is preventable. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preserving vision in patients with diabetic eye disease, but only about 50% of diabetes patients undergo annual eye exams.5
An annual eye exam with a doctor experienced in diabetic eye care can help you preserve your eye health and protect your vision. If you are at high risk for certain eye conditions linked to your diabetes, your doctor may recommend that you undergo eye exams more frequently. Should you experience sudden changes in vision, floaters, eye pain, double vision, or other abnormalities, please schedule an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.
Contact COA for Diabetic Eye Care
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important that you act proactively to protect your vision by establishing a relationship with an eye doctor who specializes in diabetic eye care and undergoing annual eye exams. To schedule an appointment with a diabetes eye disease expert in the Columbus area, please contact COA.
1 Medline Plus. Diabetic Eye Problems. Available: https://eyehealth.diabetes.org. Accessed February 20, 2023.
2 National Eye Institute. Diabetic Retinopathy. Available:https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/diabetic-retinopathy. Accessed March 4, 2021.
3 Glaucoma Research Foundation. Diabetes and Your Eyesight. Available: https://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/diabetes-and-your-eyesight.php. Accessed March 4, 2021.
4 American Academy of Ophthalmology. Detached Retina. Available: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/detached-torn-retina. Accessed March 4, 2021.
5 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keep an eye on your vision health. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/resources/features/keep-eye-on-vision-health.html. Accessed March 4, 2021.