The Link Between Diabetes and Eye Disease

If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, your risk for developing an eye disease is greatly increased. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in protecting your eyesight. At Colorado Ophthalmology Associates of Denver, CO, our ophthalmologists are experienced in detecting damage caused by high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can damage many parts of the body, including the small blood vessels and cells in the eye. Even if your diabetes is under control, it can affect your vision.1 When learning about diabetic eye disease, there are four major conditions linked to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

A common diabetes-related condition, diabetic retinopathy results from damage to the back of the eye. Damaged blood vessels can leak or enlarge and cause blurry vision. In early stages, only an ophthalmologist can detect the damage. In later stages, you may notice blurry vision, floaters, vision loss in spots, trouble with night vision, and trouble distinguishing colors. Type 2 diabetics should be checked for diabetic retinopathy right away after diagnosis and Type 1 diabetics should be checked annually.2

Diabetic Macular Edema

Another condition that diabetics can develop is diabetic macular edema. This occurs when high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels. These vessels can then leak. Fluid can build up on the retina which can cause swelling and blurred vision. If left untreated, macular edema can cause permanent vision loss. Along with blurred vision, you may experience wavy central vision, changes in colors, and difficulty with reading.3


A cataract is the permanent clouding of the lens that can be caused by excess blood sugar. This can be removed and replaced with an artificial lens during surgery. Symptoms may include blurry vision, double vision, light sensitivity, trouble with night vision, trouble reading, and color changes.4


The final, most common eye disease related to diabetes is glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can cause damage to your optic nerve. Elevated pressure inside the eye puts pressure on the optic nerve, damaging it. This results in permanent vision loss. Diabetics have twice as much risk for getting glaucoma. Glaucoma can only be detected by an ophthalmologist. Acute symptoms may include severe pain in the eye or forehead, eye redness, blurry vision, seeing halos or rainbows, decreased vision, nausea or vomiting.5

Prevention of Diabetic Eye Disease

It may be possible to protect your vision through preventive measures. You can lower your risk of getting a diabetic eye disease by getting a dilated eye exam each year. Your ophthalmologist can track any vision changes from year to year and can watch for any damage from diabetes.

Another important step you can take is to manage your diabetes carefully. If you can keep your blood sugar levels in the target range, this can help reduce damage to the eyes.

The same is true for blood pressure and cholesterol. Maintain target ranges for these to lower your risk of diabetic eye disease.

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about a cessation plan. Smoking and diabetes together can cause eye damage. Quitting smoking will provide other health benefits, as well.

Finally, stay active. Walk 15 minutes each day and find ways to stay physically active to help protect your eyes, manage your diabetes, and improve your overall health.2

Get help to protect your vision

While diabetes can cause a lot of damage and disease, treatments are available when detected early. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, call today at one of our two Colorado locations in Denver or Lakewood and get an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. Our board-certified ophthalmologists are ready to help you protect your eyes from vision loss.

            Denver: 303-320-1777

            Lakewood: 303-989-2023




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