Diabetes and the Eye: How Regular Eye Exams Can Help Detect Diabetes Early

Published: 2023-12-13

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of Americans; according to the Center for Disease Control about 1 in 10 Americans is diabetic. As a systemic condition, diabetes can affect multiple parts of your body, including your eyes. Here are several potential eye complications that you can develop from diabetes both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes and the Eye: How Regular Eye Exams Can Help Detect Diabetes Early

Early Cataracts

A cataract is the change in clarity of the crystalline lens inside the eye that often happens with age. As they develop cataracts can lead to increasingly blurry vision, light sensitivity, and even double vision in one eye. While everyone gets cataracts, diabetics tend to develop cataracts earlier, and need cataract surgery sooner compared to non-diabetics. If you are diabetic, make sure that your eye doctor is checking for cataracts during your eye exam. Small cataracts can often be observed but if a cataract is having an effect on vision or causing a complication within your eye, surgery may be necessary to preserve and improve vision. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness among adults. It occurs when elevated blood sugar levels damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. As these blood vessels weaken, they may leak fluid or blood, causing vision impairment. In advanced stages, abnormal blood vessels may grow on the retina's surface, leading to severe vision loss.

Diabetic Macular Edema

The macula is a small but crucial part of the retina responsible for central vision. Diabetes can cause the macula to swell, a condition known as diabetic macular edema (DME). DME can result in distorted or blurred central vision, impacting a person's ability to read, recognize faces, or perform other detailed tasks. 


Diabetes increases the risk of developing glaucoma, a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. Elevated intraocular pressure, often associated with diabetes, can contribute to optic nerve damage, resulting in gradual loss of your peripheral vision. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent blindness.

Dry Eye

Because diabetes can affect the way that your nerves function, it can also affect your eye’s ability to process tears and heal small wounds that can be caused by dryness. It is important to have your cornea assessed for signs that your corneal nerves have been damaged by diabetes and to ensure good corneal lubrication by treating any underlying dry eye disease. If you are not sure about whether you have dry eye disease, ask your eye doctor during your next examination because the damage from this disease can often start before you notice symptoms. 

How To Prevent Eye Problems from Diabetes: 

The best way to prevent eye problems from diabetes is to work together with your primary care doctor and your eye doctor. Your primary care doctor will help you maintain good blood sugar control to help avoid complications from diabetes. Meanwhile, your eye doctor will perform a thorough exam of your eyes, including an exam of your retinas, to ensure that your eyes are healthy. As a diabetic, you should see your eye doctor at least once every year, but your eye doctor might decide to watch you more closely depending on the health of your eyes. 

A Diabetic Eye Exam Can Save Your Life 

While diabetic eye examinations are an important way of preventing vision loss, they are also important for your overall health. The eye is the only area of the body where healthcare professionals can visualize diabetic and organ damage. If you have damage from diabetes in your eye, the same is occurring in other organs throughout your body including the kidneys, heart, and brain. Your eye doctor will communicate with your healthcare team if diabetic retinopathy is noted and alert them that further measures of sugar control are needed. 

If you are looking for excellent eye care in the Los Angeles Area, we invite you to visit Benjamin Eye Institute. Our experienced doctors are well trained to detect ocular signs of diabetes, dry eye, and many other conditions.

Dr. Irina Yakubin, OD

Clinical and Metaverse Optometrist at Benjamin Eye Institute

Call us today to book your appointment 310.275.5533