If you have diabetes, you need a diabetic eye exam at least once a year. You might not realize it, but diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. In this post, we will discuss common diabetic eye problems and proper diabetic eye care.

Diabetic eye problems

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increase your risk of eye problems. That’s because diabetes raises the level of glucose in your blood, also called “blood sugar.” The extra sugar inflames and damages blood vessels throughout your body, including in your eyes.

The main eye problems associated with diabetes are:

  • Cataracts – earlier than normal
  • Glaucoma – people with diabetes have twice the normal risk
  • Diabetic retinopathy – anyone with diabetes can get this, but Hispanics, African-Americans and Native Americans are at greater risk.

High blood sugar can also cause blurry vision. The elevated blood sugar affects the lens of your eye, changing its shape. When your blood sugar goes down, your vision returns to normal, but it’s important to control your sugar to avoid long-term problems.

Diabetic eye disease

The term “diabetic eye disease” is often used for diabetic retinopathy because this is the most common diabetic eye disease. It happens when diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina, the tissue at the back of your eye where images form. The damaged blood vessels bleed, leak fluid and sometimes close off. Without treatment, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the retina and optic nerve. These vessels also leak and bleed, damaging your vision. They can wrinkle and scar the retina and pull it away from the back of the eye, causing vision loss. Untreated diabetic retinopathy leads to blindness.

Learn more about diabetic eye disease from Oregon Eye Specialists.

Watch videos on diabetic eye disease from the National Eye Institute.

Diabetic eye care

Regular diabetic eye exams allow early detection, monitoring and treatment of diabetic eye problems, making vision loss much less likely. Treatments can include:

  • Cataract surgery
  • Eye drops, laser surgery or microsurgery for glaucoma
  • Monitoring blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol and taking injected or oral medicines for early diabetic retinopathy
  • Laser treatment and microsurgery for later diabetic retinopathy

Although treatment is usually possible, it may not restore all your vision. There is no substitute for diabetic eye examinations for prevention and early detection.

How often do I need a diabetic eye exam?

If you have…Get a diabetic eye exam…
Type 1 diabetesWithin 5 years of diagnosis, then every year
Type 2 diabetesWhen you are diagnosed, then every year
Type 1 or 2, if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnantBefore you become pregnant or the first three months of pregnancy

Questions about diabetic eye care?

If you have diabetes and need an eye physician, call 503-935-5580 or request an appointment at Oregon Eye Specialists. We have 10 convenient locations, and all our physicians are experienced in caring for diabetic eye problems.