How Diabetes Can Affect Your Eyes

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Some people can develop diabetes without realizing it, because there may be no symptoms until the disease progresses. The same is true for vision issues related to diabetes.

“People with diabetes are at increased risk for developing a variety of eye conditions,” says Abdualrahman Hamad, M.D., a retinal specialist at Henry Ford Health System. “There are often no symptoms in the early stages, which is why it’s vital for people with diabetes to have annual, dilated eye exams.”

Diabetes Can Put Your Vision At Risk

If you have diabetes, you’re at increased risk for these conditions:

  1. Diabetic retinopathy: This condition is a result of diabetes damaging the blood vessels in the retina, the delicate, light-sensitive lining in the back of the eye. It is the leading cause of blindness in American adults and is one of the most serious and common complications associated with diabetes.
  2. Diabetic macular edema: If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to swelling of the macula, the center of the retina and the area of central vision.
  3. Detached retina: This occurs when the retina begins to peel away from its supporting tissues, as a result of growth of abnormal blood vessels and scar tissue. It usually requires surgery.
  4. Cataracts: A clouding of the normally clear lens in the eye. While this is often thought of as an age-related disease, and it most commonly develops after age 60, people with diabetes are at greater risk of developing it at a younger age.
  5. Glaucoma: This group of eye disorders often involves damage to the optic nerve. It’s a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
  6. Decreased corneal sensitivity: With a decreased ability to sense foreign matter in the eye, it can make the cornea more susceptible to scratches and infection.
  7. Other abnormal visual symptoms: Fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, loss of visual field, or flashes and floaters.
  8. Strabismus: This misalignment of the eyes is often thought of as a childhood disease, but adults can also develop it. This can also occur in diabetes as a result of a stroke that involves one of the nerves controlling eye movements, and which keeps the eyes aligned.

The Importance Of Controlling Your Diabetes

“Depending on the specific condition, there are treatments available, which may include laser therapy, medications and surgery,” Dr. Hamad says. However, he notes that you can also help reduce your risk for developing new eye conditions – or help prevent current eye disease from progressing – by controlling your:

  • Blood sugar levels
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol levels


To schedule a comprehensive eye exam, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-363-7575.

Dr. Abdualrahman Hamad is a retinal specialist. He sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and the Henry Ford OptimEyes Super Vision Center in West Bloomfield.

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