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The longer you have diabetes, the greater your chance for diabetic eye disease. Everyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes is at risk, but the risk is higher for African American and Hispanic people.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common type of diabetic eye disease. High blood sugar causes tiny blood vessels in the eye to grow and leak blood and other fluids onto the retina. The retina is a thin group of cells at the back of the eye. When light hits the retina, it sends signals to the brain to form visual images. Diabetic retinopathy damages the retina, causing vision loss.
Warning signs of the disease may include:
These symptoms can come and go, but even if it seems like they have gone away, the problem can be causing ongoing damage.
In early stages, people often don’t experience any symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year. Regular eye exams can detect problems early when they can be more successfully treated. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can greatly lower the chance of blindness.
Source: NEI, 2019. Click to view full infographic.
Diabetes has been linked to other eye diseases, including:
Take steps to protect your eyes:
Check out the Healthy Living section of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) website to learn more about managing diabetes.
And remember, yearly eye exams are the best way to spot problems early when they’re easiest to treat. You may even save your eyesight.
Your primary care physician (PCP) needs a copy of your test results from your eye doctor to keep your diabetes plan of care current.
To make sure you get the best care, we recommend that you ask your eye doctor to share the results of your eye exam with your PCP within two weeks of your eye exam. That way you can discuss the results with your PCP. It also helps make sure you get the right care at the right time.
If your doctor hasn’t talked to you about having an eye exam, make sure to ask about one at your next visit.
Originally published 9/21/2016; Revised 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023
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