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Diabetic Eye Disease (cont.)

What causes diabetic eye disease?

Patient Comments

Over many years, high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and other abnormalities in metabolism found in people with diabetes may damage the blood vessels in the body. This damage to the blood vessels leads to poor circulation of the blood to various parts of the body. Since the function of the blood is to carry oxygen and other nutrients, this poor circulation causes decreased oxygen delivery to tissues in different parts of the body and subsequent damage to those tissues. Some of the most sensitive tissues to decreased blood flow and oxygen delivery include the brain, heart, kidneys, and the eyes. Lack of adequate oxygen delivery to these areas causes strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, and vision loss.

Non-retinal changes that cause diabetic eye disease


Rapid shifts in blood sugar levels: Many people with diabetes may notice that their vision becomes blurry when they have fairly large, rapid shifts in their blood sugar levels. This temporary blurring is because the sugar in the blood can diffuse into the lens of the eye and cause it to swell, thus changing the focal point of the eye and resulting in blurring of the vision. Over time, repeated swelling of this type is thought to damage the lens and cause it to become cloudy, resulting in a cataract.


The high blood sugar levels also may eventually damage the cells lining the trabecular meshwork toward the front of the eye, where the fluid (called aqueous humor) flows out from within the eye. When these cells are damaged, the trabecular meshwork cannot function correctly. If the trabecular meshwork does not function correctly, the fluid cannot flow out of the eye properly and the pressure inside the eye can increase. This high pressure inside the eye can damage the optic nerve and cause permanent vision loss. This process is called glaucoma.

Diabetic eye disease can cause a wide range of problems that affect the eyes, in particular the retina, the lens, and the trabecular meshwork.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Diabetic Eye Disease:

Diabetic Eye Disease - Symptoms

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Diabetic Eye Disease - Experience

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Diabetic Eye Disease - Causes and Types

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Diabetic Eye Disease - Medical Treatment

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Macular Edema, Diabetic »

Over the last several decades, there have been a few large-scale trials that have influenced the management of diabetic complications in the eye.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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