Avoiding Vision Loss from Diabetes

Avoiding Vision Loss from Diabetes

For older folks with diabetes, vision loss is a serious problem. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to increasingly blurry vision, even to blindness. The good news is that with treatment, careful control of blood sugar levels and regular check-ups, vision loss from diabetes can often be reduced or even eliminated.

Diabetic Retinopathy

For those with diabetes, the most common form of vision loss is diabetic retinopathy It takes place when high blood sugar causes tiny blood vessels in the eye to grow and occasionally leak blood and other fluids onto the retina.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing floaters or spots
  • Difficulty seeing well at night
  • Having a dark or empty spot in the center of your vision

People may not experience any symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. It is important to have an eye exam every year. Doctors will typically check for:

  • Leaky blood vessels
  • Changes in blood vessels
  • Damage to nerve tissue
  • Changes in the lens

Vision damage can be held to a minimum by keeping blood sugar and blood pressure levels under control. It also helps to take medications as prescribed, eat proper foods, and stay active. When your meet with your doctor, you can also be checked for other diabetic eye disorders identified by the National Eye Institute  , part of the National Institutes of Health, including:

Prevention is Key

If you have diabetes it’s important to have your vision tested, even if you have no symptoms. While most eye problems related to diabetes problems can be minor, blindness from diabetes-related complications is still an issue.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA)  says most people with diabetes may develop eye disorders like “floaters” (dark spots or strings floating in your vision), blurred eyesight, or less-than-perfect color vision. But the ADA also says nobody should be lulled into false security and offers insight and information  on eye care and eye complications to avoid problems that may eventually lead to blindness.

Major eye disorders linked to diabetes include:

  • Cataracts cloud an eye’s clear lens and block light. People without diabetes get cataracts, but diabetics are 60 percent more likely to get them, can be younger and often see cataracts progress more quickly.
  • Glaucoma – a building of pressure in the eye, which pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve causing vision loss due to damage to the retina and nerve.
  • Retinopathy – a general term referring to two types of retinal disorders—nonproliferative retinopathy, which causes capillaries in the back of the eye to balloon and block blood vessels; and
  • Macular edema - makes fluid leak into the focal point of the eye, causing blurred vision.

See your eye doctor at least once a year if you have any type of diabetes and more often if your doctor directs. It’s a small price to pay to keep your eyesight.


Last Updated: 4/1/2019