Improving Your Look

The Damage That Diabetes Can Do To Your Eyes

Even if your diabetes is under control, it can affect your eyes in subtle ways. Often there are few or no symptoms until the damage to your vision is severe. A regular eye exam by your optometrist can detect these problems before they reduce your vision. Here are the ways that diabetes can affect your vision and the treatment options that prevent severe vision loss.


Your eye is full of a gel-like fluid called the vitreous. Your body produces this fluid as it drains from pores in the eye to maintain a steady pressure in the eye to hold its shape. Diabetes affects this balances and causes the pressure to build up in the eye. This puts pressure on the blood vessels that supply the retina. As the pressure increases, the retina can become damaged. The result is blurry vision with rings of light, called halos, appearing around objects.

Your eye doctor will check the pressure in your eye during a diabetic eye exam. If the pressure starts to rise, they can treat it with eye drops to reduce the pressure. Should the pressure reach dangerous levels where you begin to lose your vision, surgery can be done to open up channels to release the fluid buildup and pressure.


Your eyes can develop a buildup of protein in the lenses to protect your eyes from the ultraviolet rays from the sun. When the buildup results in a cloudiness in the lens, this is called a cataract. Diabetes can accelerate the formation of cataracts.

The initial changes in your vision can be treated by prescription eyeglasses, but eventually you'll need more light to see and objects will appear blurry. Cataract surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace them with an artificial lens is a common procedure done as an outpatient in an ophthalmologist's office.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes also affects the blood vessels on and near the retina in two ways:

Nonproliferative Retinopathy - The tiny blood vessels on the retina become weak and leak fluid onto the retina. As the fluid pools, light is blocked from hitting the retina and your vision becomes blurry. As this continues, you'll develop shadows followed by black patches in your vision. Medication and laser therapy can be done to control the fluid leak onto the retina.

Proliferative Retinopathy - Diabetes also causes the creation of new, weak blood vessels in the eye. These create scar tissue on the retina. When severe, the scarring can force the retina to pull away from the back of the eye causing partial or total blindness.

Laser treatment can be done to remove the weak blood vessels and scarring and surgery may be necessary to reattach the retina to the eye. For more information, talk to an optometrist like Arizona Eye Specialists.