Understanding How Diabetes Affects Eye Health

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Understanding How Diabetes Affects Eye Health - First Eye Care McKinney

Diabetes Puts Your Eyes at Risk

Throughout the United States, diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate. Around 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and that number only looks to increase. Diabetes is a disease that affects your body’s insulin levels. When you are diagnosed with diabetes, your body struggles to properly produce the appropriate amount of insulin, and it struggles to use it to effectively control your blood sugar levels.

Diabetes is a serious health threat, damaging your heart, kidneys, and blood vessels. Another area that diabetes can affect is your eyes. To make matters worse, diabetes’ effect on your eyes does not become noticeable until it has already advanced. It often threatens the vision of those plagued with the disease. However, through early prevention, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that you can prevent 90% of this vision loss.

It is important that anyone with diabetes should make a concerted effort to monitor their eye health consistently. First Eye Care McKinney is here to provide all patients with comprehensive eye exams in order to detect any issues regarding diabetes and eye health.

Types of Diabetic Eye Disease

While diabetes is a dangerous disease on its own, it can affect your eyes in a number of different ways. Diabetes can lead to several different conditions that all have the potential of causing vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy 

The retina is at the back of the eye. It is comprised of a group of cells that sense light and turn it into signals for the brain to decode, allowing you to see the world around you. The retina is also full of tiny blood vessels, and when these blood vessels suffer damage, it harms the retina. This leads to diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina weaken, swell, or leak. Eye experts call this stage nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy. However, if the condition worsens, these blood vessels can completely close off, forcing new blood vessels to grow, also known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy. The development of these new blood vessels on the surface of the retina can cause serious vision problems.

Diabetic Macular Edema 

As we have already mentioned, the retina is the part of the eye that takes in light and turns it into signals to be sent to the brain. However, the part of the eye that is responsible for clear and focused vision is the macula. It allows us to see in great detail.

For those that are diabetic, their disease causes the macula to swell, leading to a condition known as diabetic macular edema. An accumulation of fluid in the macula causes the swelling. This disease affects your ability to see sharply, leading to partial vision loss and even blindness. Those that already have diabetic retinopathy are more like to develop diabetic macular edema.


Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop glaucoma than those without it. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that affect the optic nerve, which is the group of nerves responsible for connecting the eye to the brain.

If you have glaucoma, fluid in your eye can’t drain like it’s supposed to, leading to pressure buildup in your eye. This pressure can damage the nerves and blood vessels in your eye, seriously threatening the health of your eye and vision. You may experience partial vision loss or blindness. More often than not, this damage is irreversible. Diabetes doubles your chance of developing glaucoma.


Your eye’s natural lens is what allows you to see and focus on whatever is in front of you, much like that of a camera. As you grow older, this lens naturally clouds, which is known as cataracts. However, those with diabetes are far more likely to develop cataracts much sooner in life.

Many experts believe that high blood sugar levels cause deposits to buildup in the lens of your eye, which causes the clouding. The best way to properly treat cataracts is to surgically remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial one.


It is important to remember that in the early stages of diabetic eye disease, there are no early symptoms. By the time you begin to experience symptoms, your condition has already progressed. Diabetic eye disease will damage your eye, and you may feel no pain or have no change in vision.

However, when you do experience symptoms, they may include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Flashes of light
  • Spotted vision
  • Increase in floaters
  • Partial vision loss
  • Frequent changes in vision

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, contact your eye care doctor immediately. Too many people with diabetes fail to get an eye exam. In fact, nearly 60% of them skip eye exams that could save their vision. By receiving a regular eye exam, you can save your eye health and vision.

Preventing & Treating Diabetic Eye Disease

Like we mentioned earlier, early detection can prevent 90% of vision loss. However, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing diabetic eye disease. Some of the ways you can prevent it include:

  • Managing your blood sugar level, blood pressure, and cholesterol, commonly referred to as managing your diabetes ABCs
  • Quit smoking if you are a smoker
  • Schedule a dilated eye exam every year

The sooner you manage your diabetes, the better. Not only can it save your overall health, but it can save the health of your eyes and vision. If you do suffer from diabetic eye disease, there are countless ways your eye doctor can treat your condition, including:

  • Medicine: Medicines like anti-VEGF medicine block the growth of abnormal blood vessels as well as stopping fluid leaks
  • Laser Treatment: Also known as photocoagulation, laser treatment treats leaky blood vessels by creating tiny burns inside your eye with a beam of light
  • Vitrectomy: This is a surgery to remove vitreous gel from the center of your eye. It treats severe bleeding or scarring
  • Cataract Lens Surgery: This surgery involves your eye doctor removing the clouded lens from your eye where the cataract has grown and replacing it with an artificial lens

Diabetes presents a large threat to the health of your eyes. Often, it leads to partial vision loss and, in advanced cases, blindness. However, you can prevent this vision loss. By being proactive in your eye care and managing your diabetes, you can slow or stop the loss of vision. If you have diabetes and have been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, contact First Eye Care McKinney as soon as possible.

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