Diabetic Eye Disease (Diabetic Retinopathy)


Diabetes can affect the eye due to fluctuating sugar levels. Diabetes causes the levels of sugar in the blood to rise, while treatment for diabetes aims to bring levels under control again. This means that there are likely to be some fluctuations in blood sugar levels for a time, particularly when you first start treatment. These fluctuations can affect the tissues of the eye and can cause fluid to pass into the lens, making it swell and become thicker. A thicker lens can only focus on things close-by, so you become short-sighted. The problem may come and go, but if it persists for more than a month, you should be re-examined by your doctor.


If you have diabetes there is a 1 in 3 chance that the condition has already caused some changes to your eyes.  There is also about a 1 in 9 chance that your sight is at risk of serious damage.  To avoid eye problems associated with diabetes, you need to be diagnosed and treated in the early stages.


People with Diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy when:

› Diabetes has been present for many years

› Diabetes is poorly controlled

› Diabetes is associated with high blood pressure, and/or kidney damage

› Female patients with diabetes who become pregnant

Both high blood pressure and pregnancy can make diabetic retinopathy progress faster than usual.


What damage can Diabetes cause?

Cataracts are more common in older people, but they can develop quicker and at a younger age in people with diabetes. A cataract results in the lens of the eye becoming cloudy and this makes your sight deteriorate.  Cataracts can generally be treated successfully with cataract surgery.

Diabetic Retinopathy occurs when diabetes damages the very fine blood vessels in the retina, resulting in vision problems. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.  To prevent diabetic retinopathy, the most important things are to keep your blood sugar levels under control and have your eyes checked regularly.