Diabetes and the Eyes

Diabetes mellitus is a disease resulting from the body’s inability to naturally manage insulin levels.

Diabetes is the common name for diabetes mellitus. This chronic disease interferes with the body’s ability to use and store sugar, and it can cause complications in many parts of the eye.

Diabetes types

There are two types of diabetes mellitus, which are defined by the way in which your body uses insulin – a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body’s cells to use sugar:

  • Type 1 diabetes: In this form of diabetes mellitus, your body produces no insulin. Of the two types, this is the more rare form.
  • Type 2 diabetes: This is the most common form of the disease. In this type, your body does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels or it resists the effects of insulin.

Diabetes mellitus and eye health

All people with diabetes are at increased risk for developing several eye conditions, including: 

  • Abnormal visual symptoms: Fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, loss of visual field, or flashes and floaters
  • Cataracts: A clouding of the eye’s lens
  • Decreased corneal sensitivity: Decreased ability to sense foreign matter in the eye
  • Diabetic macular edema: Swelling of the macula, the center of the retina and the area of central vision
  • Diabetic retinopathy: Damage to the retinal blood vessels
  • Glaucoma: Group of eye disorders that often involve damage to the optic nerve
  • Presbyopia: Difficulty focusing on close objects as the result of your eye’s lens becoming less flexible
  • Strabismus: Lack of eye muscle coordination

If you have diabetes, you should see your Henry Ford ophthalmologist once a year for a comprehensive eye exam. Early detection and treatment are key for preserving vision.

The importance of controlling your diabetes

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

Diabetes and its Effect on the Eyes

Diabetes and eye research

In recent years, diabetes rates have increased around the world, and the number of cases of diabetic macular edema, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and other associated conditions has also spiked dramatically. Our department has made diabetes care a key focus of our ongoing eye research, including engaging in joint eye research efforts with the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCR.net), a collaborative research network funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute. All Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology retinal specialists belong to this multicenter network, which supports clinical research focusing on all diabetes-induced retinal disorders.

At Henry Ford, patients come first.

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology is committed to providing our patients with compassionate, personalized care. We feature the most advanced treatments in eye care and are dedicated to vision research – always staying at the forefront of innovation. A leader in Michigan, as well as one of the largest ophthalmology practices in the United States, we treat more than 55,000 patients per year at 12 locations throughout southeast Michigan. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it.

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