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Diabetes and your eyes

If you have diabetes, you’re at an increased risk for developing a variety of eye conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataract, and glaucoma. Each of these has the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness.

That’s why it’s important to have regular checkups and have your eyes examined. Exams should also include having your eyes dilated every year as part of a comprehensive eye examination. Be sure to tell your doctor about all your symptoms, as well as the medications you take.

Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of impaired vision and blindness among working-age adults.

Diabetic macular edema, a consequence of diabetic retinopathy, is the build-up of fluid (edema) in a region of the retina called the macula. The macula is important for the sharp, straight-ahead vision used for reading, recognizing faces, and driving.

Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. Adults with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop cataract and often develops at an earlier age in people with diabetes.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the eye to the brain. Some types of glaucoma are associated with increased pressure inside the eye. In adults, diabetes nearly doubles the risk of glaucoma.

Because some types of these eye conditions can go unnoticed until vision loss occurs, people with diabetes should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can protect against vision loss.