If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Over time, this can damage your eyes. The most common problem is diabetic retinopathy. It is a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
Your retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. You need a healthy retina to see clearly. Diabetic retinopathy damages the tiny blood vessels inside your retina.
You may not notice it at first. Symptoms 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
Treatment often includes laser treatment or surgery, with follow-up care.
Two other eye problems can happen to people with diabetes. A cataract is a cloud over the lens of your eye. Surgery helps you see clearly again. Glaucoma happens when pressure builds up in the eye, damaging the main nerve. Eye drops or surgery can help.
If you have diabetes, you should have a complete eye exam every year. Finding and treating problems early may save your vision.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Diagnosis and Tests
- Dilating Eye Drops (American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus)
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Diabetic Eye Disease (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in Spanish
- Eye Care: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- You Have Diabetes. How Can You Avoid Serious Eye Diseases? (Lighthouse Guild)
- Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy Vision Simulator (Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology)
Statistics and Research
- Diabetic Retinopathy Data and Statistics (National Eye Institute)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Diabetic Retinopathy (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Effect of Intravitreous Aflibercept vs Vitrectomy With Panretinal Photocoagulation on Visual...
- Article: Health education improves referral compliance of persons with probable Diabetic Retinopathy:...
- Article: The Importance of Telemedicine during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Focus on Diabetic...
- Diabetic Eye Problems -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- American Diabetes Association
- American Foundation for the Blind
- Finding an Eye Doctor (National Eye Institute) Also in Spanish
- National Eye Institute
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- NIDDK Information Clearinghouses and Health Information Center (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
- Diabetes - eye care (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Diabetes and eye disease (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Diabetes eye exams (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Fluorescein angiography (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Intravitreal injection (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Laser photocoagulation -- eye (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Standard ophthalmic exam (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish