Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your eyes healthy
What should I do each day to stay healthy with diabetes?
What can I do to prevent diabetes eye problems?
You can do a lot to prevent diabetes eye problems.
How can diabetes hurt my eyes?
High blood glucose and high blood pressure from diabetes can hurt four parts of your eye:
How can diabetes hurt the retinas of my eyes?
Retina damage happens slowly. Your retinas have tiny blood vessels that are easy to damage. Having high blood glucose and high blood pressure for a long time can damage these tiny blood vessels.
First, these tiny blood vessels swell and weaken. Some blood vessels then become clogged and do not let enough blood through. At first, you might not have any loss of sight from these changes. Have a dilated eye exam once a year even if your sight seems fine.
One of your eyes may be damaged more than the other. Or both eyes may have the same amount of damage.
Diabetic retinopathy is the medical term for the most common diabetes eye problem.
What happens as diabetes retina problems get worse?
As diabetes retina problems get worse, new blood vessels grow. These new blood vessels are weak. They break easily and leak blood into the vitreous of your eye. The leaking blood keeps light from reaching the retina.
You may see floating spots or almost total darkness. Sometimes the blood will clear out by itself. But you might need surgery to remove it.
Over the years, the swollen and weak blood vessels can form scar tissue and pull the retina away from the back of the eye. If the retina becomes detached, you may see floating spots or flashing lights.
You may feel as if a curtain has been pulled over part of what you are looking at. A detached retina can cause loss of sight or blindness if you don't take care of it right away.
Call your eye care professional right away if you are having any vision problems or if you have had a sudden change in your vision.
What can I do about diabetes retina problems?
Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure as close to normal as you can.
Your eye care professional may suggest laser treatment, which is when a light beam is aimed into the retina of the damaged eye. The beam closes off leaking blood vessels. It may stop blood and fluid from leaking into the vitreous. Laser treatment may slow the loss of sight.
If a lot of blood has leaked into your vitreous and your sight is poor, your eye care professional might suggest you have surgery called a vitrectomy. A vitrectomy removes blood and fluid from the vitreous of your eye. Then clean fluid is put back into the eye. The surgery can make your eyesight better.
How do I know if I have retina damage from diabetes?
You may not have any signs of diabetes retina damage, or you may have one or more signs:
If you have retina damage from diabetes, you may have blurry or double vision.
What other eye problems can happen to people with diabetes?
You can get two other eye problems-cataracts and glaucoma. People without diabetes can get these eye problems, too. But people with diabetes get these problems more often and at a younger age.
For More Information
Eye Care Professionals (ophthalmologists, optometrists)
To find an eye care professional near you, ask your doctor for a recommendation, contact a nearby hospital or medical school, or call a state or county association of ophthalmologists or optometrists.
See the American Academy of Ophthalmology website at www.aao.org and use the "Find an Eye M.D." service.
See the American Optometric Association website at www.aoa.org and click on "Find an Optometrist" or call 1-800-365-2219.
Diabetes Teachers (nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and other health professionals)
To find a diabetes teacher near you, call the American Association of Diabetes Educators toll-free at 1-800-TEAMUP4 (832-6874), or look on the Internet at www.diabeteseducator.org and click on "Find a Diabetes Educator."
To find a dietitian near you, contact the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org and click on "Find a Nutrition Professional."
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes of Health. To learn more about eye problems, write or call the NEI, 2020 Vision Place, Bethesda, MD 20892-3655, 301-496-5248; or see www.nei.nih.gov on the Internet.
To get more information about taking care of diabetes, contact
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
American Diabetes Association
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
More in the Series
The "Prevent Diabetes Problems" series has seven booklets that can help you learn more about how to prevent diabetes problems.
For free single copies of these booklets, write, call, fax, or email the
These booklets are also available at www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov on the Internet.
The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse thanks the people who helped review or field-test this publication:
For the American Association of Diabetes Educators
For the American Diabetes Association
For the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
For the Diabetes Research and Training Centers
Indiana University School of Medicine
VA/JDF Diabetes Research Center
For the Grady Health System Diabetes Clinic
For the Indian Health Service
Red Lake, MN
For the Medlantic Research Center
For the National Eye Institute
For the Texas Diabetes Council
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1978, the Clearinghouse provides information about diabetes to people with diabetes and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. The NDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about diabetes.
This publication is not copyrighted. The Clearinghouse encourages users of this publication to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.
NIH Publication No. 09-4279