Eye Care and Diabetes

Eye Care and Diabetes

Why should I take care of my eyes if I have diabetes?

The eye is one of the main organs affected by diabetes mellitus.1,2 Sustained high blood glucose levels in diabetic individuals whose glycemic levels are sub-optimally managed can lead to microvascular damages to the retina and swelling in the eyes.

Diabetic retinopathy, a microvascular complication that can lead to blindness, is the most common complication of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.3,4 It is known as the leading cause of blindness in the industrial world,5 and its prevalence is highly related to the level of glycemic control and the duration of diabetes.6 Eye diseases such as cataract (clouding of the lens) and glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve), among other conditions, also occur at higher rates in the diabetic population.1,7

However, early signs of ocular complications are often unnoticed until conditions worsen.2,8 As visual damages are usually irreversible,9 it is important for individuals with diabetes to heed the current recommendations to prevent or delay visual impairment or loss.


How should I take care of my eyes if I have diabetes?

The American Diabetes Association recommends individuals with diabetes to receive an annual comprehensive eye exam with dilated fundus examination or retinal photography.3

In addition to receiving annual exams, individuals should follow these recommendations to reduce the risk of and slow the progression of diabetic eye diseases:

  • Control blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Quit smoking


What are warning symptoms of diabetic eye diseases?

Although most individuals do not notice early signs of complications, some may experience symptoms as conditions worsen.2,10 The following warning symptoms should prompt medical attention:

  • Blurred vision for more than 2 days
  • Poor night vision
  • Flashing lights
  • Seeing an increased amount of floaters
  • Black spots or “holes”
  • Pain or pressure in one or both eyes
  • Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes


1. Henriques J, Vaz-Pereira S, Nascimento J, Rosa PC. [Diabetic eye disease]. Acta Med Port. 2015;28(1):107-113.
2. Eye Care for People with Diabetes. Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(3):1001.
3. American Diabetes Association Professional Practice Committee. 12. Retinopathy, Neuropathy, and Foot Care: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2022. Diabetes Care. 2021;45(Supplement_1):S185-S194. doi:10.2337/dc22-S012
4. Wang W, Lo ACY. Diabetic Retinopathy: Pathophysiology and Treatments. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(6):1816. doi:10.3390/ijms19061816
5. Bhatwadekar AD, Shughoury A, Belamkar A, Ciulla TA. Genetics of Diabetic Retinopathy, a Leading Cause of Irreversible Blindness in the Industrialized World. Genes (Basel). 2021;12(8):1200. doi:10.3390/genes12081200
6. Solomon SD, Chew E, Duh EJ, et al. Diabetic Retinopathy: A Position Statement by the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2017;40(3):412-418. doi:10.2337/dc16-2641
7. Eye Complications | ADA. Accessed May 6, 2022. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/complications/eye-complications
8. Diabetic Retinopathy | National Eye Institute. Accessed May 6, 2022. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/diabetic-retinopathy
9. Prahs P, Helbig H. [Diabetic eye disease]. Ther Umsch. 2009;66(3):183-188. doi:10.1024/0040-5930.66.3.183
10. Take Control | ADA. Accessed May 2, 2022. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/eye-health/take-control



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