Ask the Eye Doctor

Diabetes and Your Eyesight


Q: My primary care Doctor told me that my diabetes can affect my eye sight. How does diabetes affect the eyes?

A: Millions of Americans suffer from diabetes every day. Diabetes is a vascular disease which can negatively affect your eyes the same way it can affect other organs in your body such as your heart, kidneys and limbs. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. The eye contains a neurosensory layer called the retina, which is nourished by blood vessels. Uncontrolled diabetes can result in damage and swelling to the fine blood vessels (capillaries) in the eye, which leads to bleeding in the retina. This is called Non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. As the disease progresses, the bleeding will worsen and the retina will not receive the oxygen it needs to function. As a result of oxygen deprivation, the eye responds by initiating a chemical response, which promotes the growth of abnormal and fragile blood vessels. These fragile blood vessels can leak blood into other structures in the eye. This is called Proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy may cause other eye problems such as retinal detachments, macular edema, cataracts and glaucoma. Of the two retinopathies, non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy is the more common form of diabetic retinopathy and the one that has less potential for vision loss.

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