Symptoms and Signs of Diabetic Eye Disease

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 12/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness worldwide. Diabetic eye disease can cause a wide range of eye problems in including a reversible, temporary blurring of the vision to severe, permanent loss of vision. Diabetic eye disease also increases the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma. Severe diabetic eye disease develops most often in people who have had diabetes for years, and who have had poor control of their blood sugars over time.

Symptoms of diabetic eye disease include

  • mild-to-severe blurred vision,
  • hazy vision,
  • glare from lights at night, and
  • reversible or permanent vision loss.

Associated symptoms, such as eye discomfort, abnormal awareness of the eyes, feeling as if something is in the eye, and eye pain or discharge may or may not occur, depending on the underlying cause of the blindness.

What Is the Treatment for Diabetic Eye Disease?

The best treatment for diabetic eye disease is prevention by keeping underlying diabetes well controlled. Also, managing other associated medical problems such as high blood pressure and glaucoma is beneficial to maintaining eyesight. Prevention of complications from diabetes should include a healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, exercising regularly, and not smoking.

If you have signs of early diabetic eye disease, you should be followed closely by your eye doctor every few months. 

Treatment for later-stage diabetic eye disease consists of medications, laser treatments, and surgery. Treatments for diabetic eye disease include:

  • Injection
  • Laser treatments
    • Focal/macular photocoagulation or grid macular photocoagulation
    • Panretinal photocoagulation (PRP)
  • Eye surgery
    • Vitrectomy for bleeding in the retina
    • It may be combined with laser treatments

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.