Diabetes increases the risk of multiple eye diseases, many of which, such as diabetic eye disease, can lead to permanent vision loss. Oftentimes, there are no early symptoms for these conditions, making it essential for people with diabetes to receive regular comprehensive eye examinations.

What causes diabetic eye disease?

When a person’s blood glucose levels remain too high for too long, the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye start to break down. These damaged blood vessels can result in swelling, scarring, and increased intraocular pressure, or high pressure within the eye. All of these factors can lead to diabetic eye disease.

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic eye disease is not a single disease, but rather a group of eye problems caused by diabetes. Common diabetic eye diseases include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma, and cataracts.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes – in fact, a third of people with diabetes who are older than 40 already have signs of the condition.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, you might experience no symptoms. As the condition progresses, you may experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Impaired color vision
  • Empty or dark spaces in your vision
  • Spots floating in your vision, or floaters
  • Vision loss

Thankfully, early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of permanent vision loss by 95 percent.

Diabetic macular edema

Diabetic macular edema is the accumulation of fluid in the macula, or the central part of the retina. Without treatment, this fluid can damage the macula, resulting in diminished vision. Damage to this region can also result in:

  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Seeing colors as faded or washed out
  • Double vision
  • Floaters
  • Permanent vision loss


People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as the rest of the population. Since glaucoma often has no symptoms in its early stages, you may not notice any problems with your vision until it’s too late. The most common types of glaucoma are open-angle glaucoma and acute-angle closure glaucoma.

Symptoms of open-angle glaucoma include:

  • Blind spots in your central and peripheral vision
  • Tunnel vision

Symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma include:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Eye pain
  • Blurred vision


Like glaucoma, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cataracts as the general population. Symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurred, cloudy, or dim vision
  • Difficulties seeing at night
  • Light sensitivity
  • Faded color vision
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions

How can you prevent diabetic eye disease?

Professionals recommend that people with diabetes have a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at least once a year. Since most of these conditions have no early symptoms, early detection is essential to preventing permanent vision loss. Managing your diabetes ABCs (your A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol) will also reduce the risk of developing diabetic eye disease. Contact us today to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment.