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Warning Signs of Diabetic Eye Disease

// August 26, 2022

The long-term effects of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes extends far beyond your pancreas. Eye damage is a common side effect of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when your diabetes causes damage to blood vessels in your retina. The retina is the part of your eye that senses light. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blurred vision and eventually blindness. Diabetic eye disease can also cause cataracts, glaucoma, or macular edema.

Understanding how to detect diabetic eye disease can help you seek diabetic eye disease treatment sooner and reduce the risk of permanent retinal damage.

Who’s at Risk for Diabetic Eye Disease?

Anyone living with diabetes is at risk for diabetic diseases, including diabetic eye disease.

The longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk of developing diabetic eye disease. Over 50 percent of people living with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy. That doesn’t mean just people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. It also includes the often overlooked gestational diabetes that can develop in pregnant women.

People with high blood glucose or high blood pressure also have an elevated risk, as do people who smoke and people with high cholesterol.

Genetics can also play a role in raising your risk of diabetic retinopathy. People from some ethnic backgrounds have a higher risk than people from other ethnic backgrounds. Specifically, African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders all have an elevated risk of developing diabetic eye disease.

Keeping your diabetes under control is the best diabetic eye care. You should also get checked for diabetic retinopathy regularly. A standard eye exam won’t cut it. You need a comprehensive dilated eye exam to check for the signs of diabetic retinopathy.

If you suffer from diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema, seek help from an eye doctor with experience in diabetic eye care.

5 Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

High sugar levels can begin damaging your blood vessels even before being diagnosed with diabetes. The early stages of diabetic eye disease often show no symptoms. However, as the disease develops, you may start to see the warning signs.

Watch out for these common symptoms of diabetic eye disease:

Blurred or Wavy Vision

One of the first signs of diabetic eye damage is blurred vision. However, sometimes patients experience blurred vision when they begin treating their diabetes. Determining the cause of the blurred vision can be difficult.

Frequent Changes in Your Vision

Another common sign of diabetic eye disease is day-to-day or even hour-to-hour changes in your vision. If the clarity of your vision comes and goes, you may be seeing signs of diabetic eye disease.

Light and Color Fluctuations

Along with fluctuations in your visual clarity, watch out for changes in how you see colors. The retinal damage caused by diabetes can disrupt your eyes’ ability to process light and color. Changes in your perception of either could be a sign of diabetic eye disease.

Floating Spots or Strings in Your Visual FieldĀ 

High glucose levels in the blood vessels leading to the retina can cause bleeding inside your eye. The blood floating around inside your eye and suspended in your macular fluid will appear to you as dark spots or strings in your field of vision.


In severe cases, diabetic eye disease can lead to blindness, especially if other symptoms go ignored and the patient doesn’t seek treatment. In some cases, the blindness can be caused by a detached retina and can be repaired.

Early detection can improve the effectiveness of many treatments for diabetic eye disease, so stay aware of any of the warning signs above.

What to Do if Symptoms Occur

Keeping your diabetes under control can reduce your risk of diabetic eye disease and the severity of its symptoms. Follow your doctor’s guidelines for managing your diabetes, including diet and exercise. Also, if you have diabetes, get a dilated eye exam annually or if you experience symptoms.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, especially if you have diabetes, contact an eye doctor for a comprehensive, dilated eye exam to get a diagnosis.

Don’t plan on driving home from your own eye exam. During a dilated eye exam, doctors will use eye drops to dilate your pupils, then shine a light into your eye and use a special magnifying glass to examine your retina. Your vision will likely be blurry for several hours following the test. You will need someone else to drive you home.

Along with the dilation exam, your doctor will test your vision, check the pressure in your eyes, and may perform other tests to determine if you suffer from diabetic eye damage.

If your doctor determines you’re experiencing diabetic retinopathy or any other diabetic eye disease, they will recommend a treatment option. Some common treatments for diabetic eye disease include the following and more:

Prescription drugs

Eye doctors may use prescription injections or eye drops to treat some of the causes of diabetic eye disease. These prescriptions can include anti-vascular endothelial growth factor injections or steroid injections that reduce swelling and bleeding in the blood vessels.

Laser treatment

Some eye doctors will use laser treatments to address swelling and bleeding in the blood vessels directly.

Laser treatments for diabetic eye disease come in two basic types. Focal laser treatments target a small portion of the retina. They are often used as a treatment for diabetic macular edema. Another laser treatment, panretinal photocoagulation (PRP), targets the entire retina to fight the irregular growth of blood vessels often associated with diabetic retinopathy.


Sometimes, surgery is the best way to treat diabetic eye disease. When the retina detaches, or the eye is severely swollen, surgery can provide a method for reattaching the retina or reducing the swelling by removing excess fluid.

The treatment your doctor chooses to prescribe depends on your specific symptoms and severity. While not all the damage caused by diabetic eye disease is reversible, a suitable treatment plan can go a long way to helping reduce symptoms and, in some cases, can restore some vision.

With your vision at stake, be sure to work with eye doctors who understand the nuances of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic eye disease. Eye doctors experienced with diabetic patients will better understand what symptoms to look for and how to treat your diabetic eye disease.

Excel Eye Center is Utah’s Top Choice for Diabetic Eye Disease Treatment

The doctors at Excel Eye Center have the experience to help you quickly diagnose and treat all kinds of diabetic eye disease, including cataracts, glaucoma, macular edema, and diabetic retinopathy.

Excel Eye Center offers comprehensive dilated eye exams and several treatment options to address diabetic eye disease in various forms and stages of advancement. Some treatments include prescribing medicated eye drops or injections and laser surgery to treat cataracts, macular edema, and diabetic retinopathy. They also have treatments for diabetically induced glaucoma.

If you’re suffering any disruptions to your vision, don’t hesitate to get help. Diabetic eye disease can begin before you even know you have diabetes. The longer you wait to get treatment, the more long-term, often permanent, damage the disease can cause.

Don’t risk your eyesight. Contact Excel Eye Center to schedule your diabetic eye care consultation.