Diabetes can cause eye problems and may lead to blindness and people with diabetes do have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes. But most people who have diabetes have nothing more than minor eye disorders.
With regular checkups, you can keep minor problems minor. And if you do develop a major problem, there are treatments that often work well if you begin them right away.
Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. There are two major types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative. Read more about Diabetic retinopathy here
Several factors influence whether you get retinopathy:
- blood sugar control
- blood pressure levels
- how long you have had diabetes
The longer you’ve had diabetes, the more likely you are to have retinopathy. Almost everyone with type 1 diabetes will eventually have nonproliferative retinopathy. And most people with type 2 diabetes will also get it. But the retinopathy that destroys vision, proliferative retinopathy, is far less common. People who keep their blood sugar levels closer to normal are less likely to have retinopathy or to have milder forms.
Your retina can be badly damaged before you notice any change in vision. Most people with nonproliferative retinopathy have no symptoms. Even with proliferative retinopathy, the more dangerous form, people sometimes have no symptoms until it is too late to treat them. For this reason, you should have your eyes examined regularly by an eye care professional.
Steps you can take to avoid eye problems
- Keep your blood sugar levels under tight control. In the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, people on standard diabetes treatment got retinopathy four times as often as people who kept their blood sugar levels close to normal. In people who already had retinopathy, the condition progressed in the tight-control group only half as often. These impressive results show that you have a lot of control over what happens to your eyes. Also, high blood sugar levels may make your vision temporarily blurry.
- Bring high blood pressure under control. High blood pressure can make eye problems worse.
- Quit smoking.
- It is generally recommended that you see your eye care professional at least once a year for a dilated eye exam. Having your regular doctor look at your eyes is not enough. Nor is having your eyeglass prescription tested by an optician. Only optometrists and ophthalmologists can detect the signs of retinopathy.
- See your eye care professional if:
- your vision becomes blurry
- you have trouble reading signs or books you see double
- one or both of your eyes hurt
- your eyes get red and stay that way
- you feel pressure in your eye
- you see spots or floaters
- straight lines do not look straight
- you can’t see things at the side as you used to.