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How does diabetes affect the eyes?

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Diabetic eye disease is a group of disorders that affects people with diabetes.  Diabetes, if left untreated can cause blindness.  It is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to the following ocular conditions: diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema (dme) , cataracts, and glaucoma.  

Diabetic retinopathy – high blood sugar causes the retinal blood vessels in the back of the eye to leak out.  This can lead to blurred and distorted vision.

Diabetic macular edema (DME) – is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy which causes the central area of the retina called the macula to swell and leak.  

Cataracts – a clouding of the lens inside the eye.  Usually affects older people, but those with diabetes are affected much younger.  Adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely to develop cataract than those without diabetes.  

Glaucoma – a disease that causes damage to the cable that connects the eye to the brain called the optic nerve.  In adults with diabetes, the risk of glaucoma nearly doubles.  

Early detection is key to preventing vision loss in patients with diabetes.  Make sure to see a primary care doctor annually to test your blood sugar along with cholesterol and blood pressure.  Stay away from foods that are high in sugar and saturated fats.  Diabetic eye disease can go unnoticed until vision loss occurs.  Patients with diabetes should undergo a comprehensive eye examination at least once a year.  

Contact our office at 925-743-1222 today to schedule your comprehensive eye examination if you have diabetes or borderline diabetic.  Please watch the video below for an overview of diabetes.  


Written by Dr. Michael Duong

Dr. Duong received his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry at San Jose State University. He then attended Pennsylvania College of Optometry and received his Doctor of Optometry in 2009.
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