Quick Guide to Diabetes and Your Eyes

By David Rabady, M.D.

The effects of diabetes extend well beyond the inability to properly metabolize food. Too-high levels of blood sugar can negatively affect all areas of the body…including the eyes.

People who have diabetes are at an increased risk of developing eye complications, the most common of which is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a disorder of the retina that causes blindness. In fact, this is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. Diabetic retinopathy damages the tiny blood vessels inside your retina—the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye—reducing the nourishment the retina receives and causing loss of vision over time.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are often minor at first and can include:

  • Blurry or double vision
  • Rings, flashing lights, or blank spots
  • Dark or floating spots
  • Pain or pressure in one or both of your eyes
  • Trouble seeing things out of the corners of your eyes

However, diabetic retinopathy can cause retinal damage before you even notice any symptoms at all, which is why it’s so important for those who have diabetes to receive thorough yearly eye exams.

There are several different treatment options for diabetic retinopathy including laser treatments, surgery and FDA approved Lucentis™ injection. The earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the more successful the treatments can be to slow the progression of the disease and we may even be able to reverse the damage.

People who keep their blood sugar levels closer to normal are less likely to have retinopathy or will have milder forms, so it’s also important to work with your diabetes doctor to find out if there are any additional steps you can take to improve your diabetes management.
Diabetes can also cause other eye complications, including glaucoma and cataracts. People who have diabetes are actually 40 percent more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes and 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts. Glaucoma happens when pressure builds up in the eye, damaging the main nerve. And cataracts are a clouding over the lens of the eyes. Surgery can help restore vision that’s been impaired by cataracts.

Because diabetes and eye complications are so closely linked, yearly eye exams are especially imperative for those who have diabetes. We also recommend finding a board-certified retina specialist for your eye care. A retina specialist will be up on the latest research and treatments for diabetic eye disease. Discovering and treating problems early may help save your vision.

If you have diabetes, Ophthalmic Consultants of the Capital Region encourages you to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified retina specialists.

We have 5 eye care offices in the area:
Albany (518) 438-5273
Clifton Park (518) 383-8589
Schenectady (518) 370-0066
Schodack (518) 477-2391
Troy (518) 274-3123