Almost 1 in 3 Australian diabetics have some form of diabetes related eye disease. Education and awareness around diabetes and eye health is a factor. Unfortunately, some eye diseases are so gradual in their onset, a person may not experience any symptoms or changes in their vision until it is too late.
Eye health is a specialty, and requires an optometrist or ophthalmologist to assess your eyes. Luckily, the expert and caring team at in Sydney can help you manage your eye health and prevent diabetes related complications.
How does diabetes affect your eyes?
When diabetics experience hyperglycaemia – too much sugar in their blood – the sugar can have a toxic effect on cells and blood vessels, including the microscopic blood vessels in your eyes.
Short term, hyperglycaemia can cause blurred vision and this can be fixed when a diabetic’s blood glucose levels return to normal.
However, over time, the tiny blood vessels in the eyes can be permanently damaged from hyperglycaemia; causing the vessels to leak fluid, swell and damage to important parts of the eye.
Hyperglycaemia and diabetes related complications increase the risk and cause many eye diseases like the ones listed below:
Did you know, Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most common cause of blindness in people aged over 50?
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels in the retina – at the back of the eye – are damaged as a complication of diabetes. These damaged blood vessels can lead to bleeding in the eyes, abnormal blood vessel growth and fibrous tissue.
There are 4 stages of stages of diabetic retinopathy, each one progressively worse. Diabetic Retinopathy can occur regardless of the type of diabetes, your age, or how well you manage your diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Some examples of symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy include:
- Blurred, distorted or patchy vision
- Problems with balance, reading, watching television and recognising people
- Being overly sensitive to glare
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Eye strain
It’s important, as a diabetic to get regular eye checks to slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. If you notice any changes in your vision, contact your optometrist.
Diabetic macular oedema
DME is a type of diabetic retinopathy, where fluid from leaking blood vessels in the eye cause the macular to swell. The macular is part of the retina. DME can damage central vision. Blurred vision is caused from extra fluid in the macular. Making it hard to see fine details like reading and peoples faces.
As diabetic retinopathy progresses, the risk of retinal detachment increases. If fluid from damaged blood vessels pools underneath the retina, it can cause the retina to detach and starve the retina of critical oxygen required for light converting nerve cells.
Retinal detachment is a serious emergency and requires immediate surgery to prevent permanent vision loss.
Glaucoma is a condition where vision loss occurs due to damage or thinning of the optic nerve. The nerve that translates the messages from your eyes to your brain. Diabetics have increased risk of developing glaucoma.
There are several types of glaucomas that can affect diabetics. Including open angle glaucoma and neovascular glaucoma.
Some symptoms include:
- Eye strain and headaches
- Eye redness
- Blurred vision
- Halos around lights
Glaucoma is a gradual disease and you may not even notice immediate symptoms, giving glaucoma the nickname of the ‘vision thief’.
Research suggests glucose deposits can ‘fog up’ our lenses. The lenses of our eyes tend to get cloudy as we age but diabetics are more likely to develop ‘cloudy lenses’ formally known as cataracts at an early age. If you start to experience cloudy vision, go to an optometrist as soon as possible.
Things to remember about diabetes and eye health
Diabetes greatly increases the risk to a range of eye diseases. It’s important regardless of your age, symptoms and diabetes management, to do these crucial things to reduce your risk of permanent vision loss:
- Have your eyes checked regularly, at least every two years, to pick up early signs of retinopathy and other eye diseases.
- Control your blood glucose levels.
- Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- If you notice your vision change, seek help from your optometrist.
- Centre for Eye Research Australia, 2021. Understanding diabetic eye disease. [online] Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA). Available at: [Accessed 29 July 2021].
- NIDDK, 2021. Diabetic Eye Disease | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2021].
- Lutty, G., 2013. Effects of Diabetes on the Eye. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, [online] 54(14), p.ORSF81. Available at: [Accessed 31 July 2021].
- Koetting, C., 2021. The Four Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy – Modern Optometry. [online] Modern Optometry. Available at: [Accessed 31 July 2021].
- Diabetes Co UK, 2021. Retinal detachment?is a rare age-related condition that occurs when the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the layer of cells at the back part of your eye (retina) start to pull away.. [online] Diabetes Co UK. Available at: [Accessed 31 July 2021].
- NEI, 2020. Glaucoma | National Eye Institute. [online] Nei.nih.gov. Available at: [Accessed 31 July 2021].