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Eye Health

Bringing Eye Health and Diabetes into Clearer Focus

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To the unaided eye, the relationship between eye health and diabetes can be seemingly unclear. However upon closer examination, you can clearly see the connection between eye health and diabetes. Simply put, patients who have diabetes are at risk to develop certain eye conditions. Continue reading to learn more about the perilous relationship. 

How Are Eye Health and Diabetes Related? 

Diabetes is a disease that hampers the body’s ability to use or produce insulin effectively, which is a chemical used to control blood sugar levels in the body. If glucose levels are too high for a sustained period of time, it can damage the kidneys, heart, as well as the blood vessels — particularly in the eye. 

Fortunately, 90% of vision loss caused by diabetes is entirely preventable according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The key is early detection! Diabetic eye diseases can encompass several different types of eye diseases, but the most common is diabetic retinopathy. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition when the blood vessels inside the retina start to swell or leak. At the same time, diabetic retinopathy can cause the blood vessels to completely close off. Once this happens, the patient’s eyes may grow new blood vessels that are abnormal and fail to function properly. 

And these new blood vessels tend to bleed easily or leak easily. Abnormal blood vessels may also have the tendency to grow on the retina’s surface. Those who have poor blood sugar control or diabetes are at a high risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. 

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Although the earliest stages of diabetic retinopathy typically doesn’t have symptoms, some patients report problems seeing objects far away or other changes in their vision. These complications may come and go. In the later stages of diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels in the retina my start to bleed over into the vitreous gel. When this happens, the patient may report seeing streaks that look like cobwebs or floating spots. In some instances, the spots may clear up on their own – but treatment is still necessary. Failure to receive the appropriate treatment can cause the bleeding to happen again, cause scarring, or get worse. 

Additional Eye Conditions Caused by Diabetes

Diabetes and Cataracts

Excessive blood sugar caused by diabetes can lead to cataracts. In this case, surgery may be required to remove the clouded lenses. 

Diabetes and Neovascular glaucoma 

Diabetic retinopathy can cause blood vessels to abnormally grow out of the retina, which may prevent fluid from draining out of the eye, which can result in neovascular glaucoma. The damage sustained can lead to permanent vision loss. When a patient has a diabetic diagnosis, they are twice as likely to develop glaucoma. 

Diabetic Macular Edema 

Approximately 50% of the time, those with diabetic retinopathy can develop diabetic macular edema. Macular edema is the result of fluid building up in the retina and causing blurry vision as well as swelling. This condition can result in irreversible vision loss. 

Retinal Detachment 

Diabetic retinopathy can result in scars forming in the back of the patient’s eye. Eventually, the scarring can cause the retina to pull away from the rear of the eye, which is retinal detachment. 

How to Help Your Patients Prevent Diabetic Eye Diseases? 

Simply put, patients who have diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy as well as other types of conditions mentioned above. The good news is most of these conditions are preventable. Here are a few steps you can use to help your patients preserve their vision for several years to come. 

Encourage Regular Dilated Eye Exams

In the earliest stages, diabetic eye diseases will usually not exhibit symptoms. However, through regular dilated eye exams, you’ll be able to examine the optic nerves and retina for damage well before the patient notices vision changes. And in the event you notice a potential problem, early treatment is the best treatment. 

Educate Patients about Managing Blood Sugar

Above all, it’s critical for patients who have diabetes to manage their blood sugar. If the blood sugar is too high, it can cause blurry vision, which goes back to normal once the sugar stabilizes. 

Educate Patients on the Impact of Cholesterol Levels and Blood Pressure

High cholesterol and high blood pressure can increase your potential for vision loss from eye disease. However, when your patients keep both under control, it will help their vision and health. 

Cut the Smoke 

When your patients smoke, they increase their risk for diabetic retinopathy and other types of eye diseases. Giving up smoking tobacco can help lower this risk. 


In addition to being good for diabetes, regular exercising can help your patients keep their eyes in as good condition as possible. 

Contact Keeler 

When it comes to eye health and diabetes, you play a critical role in helping your patients see clearly. And when it comes to the best ophthalmic instruments and equipment, Keeler is the industry leader. Contact us today to learn more about our cutting-edge diagnostic equipment. 

About the Author Eugene VanArsdale

Eugene is the Director of Marketing Communications at Keeler Instruments. He has been with Keeler since 1982 and is co-holder of two patents for the company. Eugene has a true passion for the eye care industry and has dedicated himself to understanding the ins and outs of the optometric and ophthalmic equipment market.