Diabetes can damage your eyes over time and cause vision loss, even blindness. The good news is managing your diabetes and getting regular eye exams can help prevent vision problems and stop them from getting worse.

Eye diseases that can affect people with diabetes include diabetic retinopathy, macular edema (which usually develops along with diabetic retinopathy), cataracts, and glaucoma. All can lead to vision loss, but early diagnosis and treatment can go a long way toward protecting your eyesight

Diabetic Retinopathy: This common eye disease is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. Diabetic retinopathy is caused when high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the retina (a light-sensitive layer of cells in the back of the eye). Damaged blood vessels can swell and leak, causing blurry vision or stopping blood flow. Sometimes new blood vessels grow, but they aren’t normal and can cause further vision problems. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes.

Diabetic Macular Edema: This condition causes fluid to build up behind the retina in the center of the eye (the macula). As a result, you will see spots rather than shapes clearly or may see double instead of just a dark circle around lights

What are the symptoms of diabetic eye disease?

Often there are no early symptoms of diabetic eye disease. You may have no pain and no change in your vision as damage begins to grow inside your eyes, particularly with diabetic retinopathy.

When symptoms do occur, they may include

  • blurry or wavy vision
  • frequently changing vision—sometimes from day to day
  • dark areas or vision loss
  • poor color vision
  • spots or dark strings (also called floaters)
  • flashes of light

Talk with your eye doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Diabetic retinopathy is curable. If you have diabetes, always get a yearly eye exam to detect diabetic retinopathy early. Regular eye exams are an important part of diabetes control, so make sure to schedule an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist. If you notice any changes in your vision, let your doctor know right away. Some kinds of vision loss can be reversed if treated early enough.