For patients between the ages of 20 and 74, diabetes is the lead cause of blindness in the U.S. The diabetic vision problems which most commonly lead to blindness are proliferative diabetic retinopathy and macular edema, according to Both of these conditions are treatable if detected early.

Fluctuation in vision is a common symptom of diabetes. These fluctuations are caused by the ups and downs of blood sugar levels. As blood sugar levels change the shape of the human crystalline lens changes as well.  This is only a temporary change, so before prescribing eye glasses to a diabetic patient, doctors will usually retest the patient on another day.

Muscular edema is a swelling of the muscular tissue that lies in the center of the retina. It normally doesn’t cause complete vision loss, but the loss of visual accuracy. This swelling can be detected through a dilated retinal exam. It can be treated with laser treatment, if it is caught early enough.

Diabetic retinopathy is a far more dangerous condition. It can cause a profound loss in vision. In diabetic retinopathy, small blood vessels which nurture the retina are damaged. Your body reacts to this by releasing chemicals which promote new blood vessel growth. However, this is not very helpful because these new blood vessels are very delicate so they break and bleed. They also cause scar tissue in the eye that may pull the retina and cause it to detach. Laser treatment however, can reduce the risk of this vision loss by 50%.


Prevention of Diabetic Vision Problems


Listed below are guidelines for eye care which are provided by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). By following these guidelines you will likely be able to avoid or at least prolong the onset of diabetic eye problems in the future. These eye care guidelines state:

  • People with type 1 diabetes should have a dilated eye exam performed by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist within the first 3 to 5 years after diagnosis.
  • People with type 2 diabetes should have a dilated eye exam performed by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist shortly after diagnosis.
  • A diabetic of either type should have their eyes examined annually and more frequently if necessary.
  • Women with a history of diabetes should have an eye exam prior to and throughout the pregnancy. This does not apply to gestational diabetes patients.
  • You can prevent diabetic vision problems by controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
  • Your doctor should be contacted if any of the following diabetic vision problems occur: black spots in your vision, flashes of light, holes in your vision, or blurred vision.