Avoiding Vision Loss from Diabetes

Avoiding Vision Loss from Diabetes

Lee esto en EspañolFor older adults with diabetes, vision loss can be a serious worry. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to blurry vision, even to blindness. Fortunately, with timely treatment, careful control of blood sugar and regular follow-ups, the risk for vision loss can be reduced or even eliminated.

Diabetic Retinopathy

The most common form of vision loss is diabetic retinopathy. leaving site icon High blood sugar causes tiny blood vessels in the eye to grow and leak blood and other fluids onto the retina.

Symptoms include:

  • Spots or floaters in your field of vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Dark or empty spot in the center of your vision
  • Poor night vision

In the early stages, people may not experience any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have an eye exam every year. Regular vision tests can detect problems early. During a yearly exam, doctors will typically check for:

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

Diabetics can keep blood sugar and blood pressure levels under control to minimize damage to eyesight. It also helps to take all medications as prescribed, stay active and eat healthy foods. But the best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is a regular eye exam.

During your exam, the doctor can also test for other disorders identified by the National Eye Institute, leaving site icon including:

Prevention is Key

Even if you don’t have symptoms, it’s important to get your vision tested. While most diabetes-related eye problems are often minor, blindness from complications is still a major issue.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) leaving site icon says many people with diabetes may develop “floaters” (dark spots or strings floating in your vision), blurred eyesight or less-than-perfect color vision. The ADA encourages people not to be lulled into a false sense of security. To help those at risk, they offer ways to avoid complications leaving site icon that can lead to blindness.

Major eye disorders linked to diabetes include:

  • Cataracts – a clouding of the eye’s clear lens that blocks 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. Damage to the retina and nerve can cause vision loss.
  • Retinopathy – a condition that causes capillaries in the back of the eye to balloon and block blood vessels.
  • Macular edema – a form of retinopathy in which fluid leaks 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 advises. It’s a small price to pay to keep your eyesight.

Sources: Diabetic Retinopathy, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2023; Diabetic Retinopathy, leaving site icon National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, 2022; Diabetic Macular Edema, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2023; Cataracts, leaving site icon National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, 2023; Glaucoma, leaving site icon National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, 2022; The American Diabetes Association, leaving site icon 2023; Eye Complications, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association
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Originally published 5/14/2018; Revised 2019, 2021, 2023

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