The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that vision-threatening conditions are on the rise among people with diabetes.

If you have diabetes, it is important to protect your eyes and your vision. Vision loss and vision problems are common diabetes complications, especially in people who have type 1 diabetes. Did you know that:

  • Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness
  • People with diabetes must see an ophthalmologist regularly
  • Outpatient laser treatments can help preserve vision

You may be in danger of losing your eyesight. If that comes as a surprise, consider this: Nearly everyone with type 1 diabetes will develop a condition known as diabetic retinopathy that can cause blurred vision, blind spots and, in extreme cases, blindness. Approximately 70 percent of people with type 2 diabetes will develop it. What's more, people may be diagnosed with a vision-threatening condition when they are completely unaware of any symptoms prior to visiting an ophthalmologist, says Susan Bressler, M.D., professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The reason? In the absence of bleeding inside the eye, retinal detachment or macular edema (a swelling at the center of the retina), individuals with diabetic retinopathy have no symptoms. But there's good news. Keeping tight control of blood glucose can help prevent it from damaging the blood vessels of the retina. "The more elevated your blood glucose is, and the longer it's elevated, the greater the risk is of retinopathy, and the greater the risk is that the retinopathy will be more severe," says Dr. Bressler.

Seeing an ophthalmologist regularly (at least once per year, but more often if your ophthalmologist believes it's necessary) ensures that if there's a problem it'll be caught early enough to save your sight.

From our sister publication, Diabetes Focus (Winter 2010)

Publication Review By: Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D.; Susan B. Bressler, M.D.; Steven Schwartz, M.D.

Published: 06 Feb 2011

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015