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The Link Between Diabetes and Eye Problems

November is National Diabetes Month in the United States, so Dr. Curtis Frank and the team here at Vision and Ortho-K Center want to discuss the close and problematic association between this chronic condition and your vision.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but diabetes is more than just an idle threat when it comes to your eyesight. For example, the most common form of diabetic eye disease — retinopathy — is the primary driver of new blindness among American adults between the ages of 20 and 74. And this problem is only expected to grow.

A group of eye problems

The link between diabetes and eye health isn’t a singular one, as diabetes can lead to any one of a group of diabetic diseases.

For the more than 37 million people in the United States who have diabetes, they are more at risk for:

Diabetic retinopathy

This is one of the more common eye complications when you have diabetes and is projected to affect more than 11 million people in the US by 2030.

When you have diabetes, uncontrolled levels of sugar in your blood can damage your blood vessels. Now consider how sensitive and small the blood vessels in your eyes are, which means they’re particularly prone to damage.

If tiny blood vessels in your eyes become damaged, they can bulge or leak into your retina. In response, these blood vessels may shut down and new ones can form on your retina, which can seriously impede your vision, eventually robbing you of your sight.

Diabetic macular edema

The macula in your eyes is the part of the retina that provides your central vision — seeing what’s right in front of you. Diabetes can cause inflammation in this part of your eye, which can lead to partial blindness.


This common eye disease is one in which your optic nerve becomes damaged because of too much pressure inside your eye. When you have diabetes, your chances for glaucoma double.


This is another common eye disease that affects the lenses in your eyes, which cloud over time. When you have diabetes, you’re more at risk for developing cataracts earlier in life than people without diabetes.

Staying one step ahead of diabetic eye disease

The best way to manage your eye health when you have diabetes (outside of regulating your blood sugar levels) is to come see us regularly for a comprehensive eye exam. Many of the issues we describe above don’t have any early symptoms, especially diabetic retinopathy.

Through our exam, we can spot the early signs of a brewing problem and take prompt action to preserve your vision. As with most health issues, the earlier we can intervene, the better your outcome.

To schedule your all-important eye exam to check for diabetic eye disease, please schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Boston or Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts.

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