How can you tell if diabetes is affecting your eyes?

Diabetes is a common problem in the United States, with about 30% of the population having the disease (both diagnosed and undiagnosed). The effects of diabetes can be difficult, and they vary anywhere from fatigue to diabetic retinopathy. 

How does the eye work?

It’s helpful to know how the eye works, especially if you’re trying to understand eye disorders. A strong outer membrane covers the eye, and it’s clear and curved. The curved part is the cornea, which focuses on light and protects the eye.

Light passes through the cornea and travels through the pupil, eventually hitting the retina in the back of the eye. 

Eye complications from diabetes

No matter the type of diabetes a person has, it can increase your risk for different health problems. Unfortunately, a lot of eye disorders can stem from diabetes, such as:

  • Glaucoma: occurs when pressure builds up in the eye.
  • Cataracts: occur when a cloudy substance covers the lens and blocks light.
  • Retinopathy (non-proliferative and proliferative): occurs when blood vessels become blocked, weakened, and damaged.

Diabetic retinopathy is a general term used to describe all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. There are two main types: non-proliferative and proliferative.

Diabetic retinopathy symptoms

If you’re diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, all is not lost! Many treatments can help slow down the process and can prevent blindness in people. As usually stated, the earlier it’s diagnosed, the better your chances will be.

Here are a few signs you might have diabetic retinopathy:

  • Inability to see at night, including seeing halos around lights
  • Itchiness, redness, and/or discharge in and around the eye
  • Frequent headaches
  • Seeing auras, black spots, or other vision disruptions
  • Chronic, frequent eye strain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty focusing in certain lighting

If you notice any of these sudden vision changes and symptoms, it would be best to schedule a diabetic exam with your doctor. The earlier a disease is diagnosed, the better the outcome will be for you.