Diabetes & Your Eyes

Last Updated:

By Patrizia Colmenares, O.D.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and the eye doctors at Virginia Eye Consultants are dedicated to helping patients with Diabetes maintain their vision. Dr. Patrizia Colmenares explains the connection between Diabetes and your eye health and shares tips to take care of your vision.

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a group of health conditions that affect over 30 million Americans.1 Type 1 diabetes, sometimes called juvenile diabetes, is a condition in which the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone used by the body to store glucose, which is the sugar that is broken down from the food that you eat. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and accounts for over 90% of diabetes in the United States.1 People with Type 2 are not able to utilize insulin effectively, leading to high blood sugar that can create a variety of health and vision problems.

How Diabetes Can Affect Vision and Eye Health
Diabetes can have both long-term and short-term effects on vision. People with diabetes may experience blurred vision when their blood sugar is high; this is due to swelling within ocular tissues. If blood sugar is consistently high, the blood vessels within the eye can be permanently damaged, resulting in vision loss.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that occurs when the small blood vessels in the back of the eye are damaged by prolonged high blood sugar. The vessels can begin to leak and the body responds by producing new, weaker blood vessels that can cause swelling and scarring in the back of the eye. People with Diabetes may also be at higher risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.2

Tips to Protect Your Vision
There are several steps you can take to protect your vision that will also have a positive impact on your overall health:

  • Check your blood sugar regularly.
  • Follow your primary care physician’s recommendations for diet and exercise.
  • Have a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at least once a year.

Take Care of Your Eye Health
If you experience diabetic changes, you may need to visit a retina specialist. Symptoms to look out for are wavy vision, vision that changes with blood sugar, dark areas in vision, floating spots in vision, and flashes of light. Flashes of light and floaters could be signs of a retinal detachment and are considered an ocular emergency. Call a doctor right away if experiencing these symptoms.

Contact Virginia Eye Consultants
The vision specialists at Virginia Eye Consultants have provided high quality eye care for patients in Hampton Roads for over 55 years. Contact us with any questions about diabetic eye health.


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes Quick Facts. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html Accessed October 22, 2019.

2 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetic Eye Disease. Available: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/diabetic-eye-disease Accessed October 22, 2019.

The doctors at Virginia Eye Consultants have either authored or reviewed the content on this site.

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