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How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes?

Regular eye exams play a key role in keeping your eyes as healthy as possible. Regular checkups are especially vital if you have chronic conditions that put your eye health at risk, such as diabetes.

Doctors recommend that you have an eye exam at least once a year. A comprehensive eye exam does much more than simply check your vision to see if you need glasses. Regular eye exams can save your vision, especially if you have diabetes.

Diabetes and eye health

If you have diabetes, your doctor has likely stressed the importance of taking special care of your feet. It’s important to know that diabetes can affect your eyes as well. Diabetes can damage vital blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to your eyes. Elevated blood sugar can cause a host of issues that impair vision and put your eye health at risk.

Here at Valley Eye Professionals, optometrists Dr. Barry Wagner and Dr. Narbae Avedian recommend that people with diabetes schedule annual visits for diabetic eye exams. These visits play an important role in catching problems you may be unaware of.

That’s because diabetes can silently damage your eyes without causing symptoms initially. You can sustain damage before pain and other issues are noticeable. An annual diabetic eye exam can detect problems during the earliest stages, when they’re easier to treat.

Why are diabetic eye exams so important?

Everyone should schedule an annual eye exam, but this is particularly true for people living with diabetes. The negative effects of diabetes on your eyes needs to be addressed as early as possible for the best outcome. Between annual exams, you should report any visual symptoms to your optometrist right away.

Symptoms to look out for are:

We offer excellent treatments that can best help manage diabetic eye disease when caught early on. Here, we explain how diabetes can affect your vision.


Just like a camera, your eye has an internal lens that enables it to focus on an image. Like the lens of a camera, your eye’s lens can become cloudy, making it difficult to see images clearly. A cataract is a clouding of the lens of your eye. The general risk of cataracts increases as you age, but people with diabetes are at a greater risk of developing cataracts and have a higher likelihood of developing them earlier.

Additionally, when people with diabetes do develop cataracts, they tend to worsen at a faster rate. Blurred vision and glare are the primary symptoms of cataracts. Catching cataracts in the early stages can help preserve your vision.

Diabetic retinopathy

A small group of cells on the back of your eye that receive light make up your retina. These cells convert light into images your brain can perceive.

The small blood vessels in your retina are important for keeping your vision healthy. Diabetes can damage these blood vessels, causing diabetic retinopathy. This condition threatens your vision if not caught and treated early. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss in people with diabetes.

Keeping your blood sugar within a target range, quitting smoking, and managing your blood pressure and cholesterol can slow or prevent the disease.


Glaucoma is marked by a buildup of pressure in the eye that damages the optic nerve, which sends images to the brain. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. There are several types of glaucoma — open-angle glaucoma is the most common. Medications to lower eye pressure can treat glaucoma. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss.

If you have diabetes, you’re also more likely to develop neovascular glaucoma, a less common form of glaucoma. This causes new blood vessels grow on the colored part of your eye called the iris. The new blood vessels block the natural flow of fluid and cause eye pressure to rise.

Treatment to reduce the number of blood vessels in the back of the eye can address this rare form of glaucoma.

Keeping your eyes healthy

Annual eye exams can help find problems early, when successful treatment is most likely. If you live with diabetes, putting off eye exams places your eyes at great risk. To learn more about keeping your eyes healthy, call our Los Angeles office to schedule a checkup, or request one here on our website.

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