How Diabetes Can Affect the Health of Your Eyes

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Most people understand that diabetes affects your blood sugar and the insulin levels in your body. They’re also generally aware that being diabetic can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. What’s not as well known is that it can also impact your vision.

Too much glucose in the bloodstream can damage the blood vessels and nerves throughout the body, including the eyes. Diabetes can even cause certain eye diseases to develop. In this blog, we’ll review the most common diseases and how they can affect your sight.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy develops when the tiny blood vessels in your eyes start swelling and leaking fluid or blood. With some people, abnormal new blood vessels appear on the surface of the retina, which is the light-sensitive nerve layer at the back of your eye. Regardless of cause, diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in diabetics. Early symptoms include:

If these symptoms don’t improve after you get your blood sugar under control, medical intervention may be necessary, so call your eye doctor immediately. Treatments for diabetic retinopathy include anti-VEGF medication, laser eye surgery, and vitrectomy in more severe cases.

Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a disease that can happen at any stage of diabetic retinopathy. It occurs when the macula at the back of your eye swells with fluid. Driving, reading, and other activities that require clear, straight-ahead vision are all dependent on the macula. Symptoms include:

In general, symptoms of macular edema typically range from slightly blurred vision to noticeable vision loss. Speak to your eye doctor if you notice any changes to your eyesight.


People with diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing cataracts, which is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. Symptoms include:

You can get some relief from certain symptoms by wearing anti-glare sunglasses or stronger prescription glasses, but cataracts can only be eliminated completely by removing the cloudy lens in your eye and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). Your eye doctor will recommend the best treatment for your situation.


Pressure in your eye can cause glaucoma, a condition which damages your optic nerve. According to the National Eye Institute, diabetics are twice as likely to develop a type of glaucoma called open-angle glaucoma as other people. Symptoms include:

Without treatment, your peripheral vision is usually the first to go, followed by your other vision. Diagnosing glaucoma early is key to getting the proper treatment and preventing blindness.

Always Report Vision Issues to Your Doctor

Diabetes can affect your vision in a variety of ways. By managing the condition and getting regular eye exams, you can maintain good vision and avoid diabetes-related eye diseases. However, as soon as you notice any irregularities in your vision, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.

At Uptown Eye Specialists, our experienced ophthalmologists offer innovative and proven therapies for ocular diseases related to diabetes. To learn more about them, please visit our treatment page or call (416) 292-0330.

Please reschedule your appointment if within the last 14 days you or a household member has travelled outside of Canada, have experienced flu-like symptoms, been in contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, been diagnosed with COVID-19 or waiting for a lab test for COVID-19.
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