Diabetes and Eyes: An Important Connection

Diabetes is one of the most commonly misunderstood diseases. Many people just believe diabetes means that you aren’t “allowed” to have sugar anymore. Perhaps most misunderstood aspect of the disease is the link between diabetes and eyes.

Did you know that, according to the American Diabetes Association, having diabetes means you’re 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts? Another problem linked to diabetes and eyes is macular edema. Still, the most prevalent complication is diabetic retinopathy—America’s leading cause of blindness in adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some eye problems that can be linked to diabetes.


Diabetes is sometimes accompanied by diminished fluid drainage in the eye. As the fluid builds up, crucial parts of your eye—like the optic nerve—begin to experience pressure. If untreated, the condition will affect your vision permanently.


The eye’s lens is particularly sensitive to the changes that happen when a body develops diabetes. The longer the blood sugar is elevated above the safe range, the more the proteins in the lens group together, forming the cloudiness known as cataracts.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Higher glucose levels in blood can weaken blood vessels in general. In the eye, and particularly the retina, this can mean that the tiny blood vessels begin to leak. The leakage is called diabetic retinopathy, and it may cause blurry vision. As your cells try to cope, they sometimes compensate by growing new, abnormal vessels.

Macular Edema

Your eye’s macula helps your central vision by detecting fine detail and colors. Located in the center of the retina, the macula is directly impacted if diabetic retinopathy advances untreated. If fluid leaks into the macula, it will swell, blurring vision further.

The good news is that if detected early, eye complications in diabetic patients are usually easy to treat.

Knowledge can help keep you healthy. For an action plan you can implement today, choose two of the items below, recommended by the Mayo Clinic, to change today:

  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week.
  • Eat lots of fiber. Go for fruits, veggies, and beans.
  • Opt for whole grains. Search ingredient lists for the word “whole” when grocery shopping.
  • Drop excess pounds. Losing as little as 7 percent of your initial body weight can cut your risk of diabetes by more than half.
  • Make it a lifestyle. Avoid fad diets that encourage you to cut entire food groups or starve yourself. Making lifelong choices, even if they seem small, makes all the difference in long-term health.

It’s crucial to have a working relationship with your ophthalmologist before you notice symptoms of any of these diseases. If you’re up to date on your checkups, then you know your doctor is watching for things you might not notice on your own.

Image source: Flickr

Return to the Blog Home Page