Patients and Public

Eye Diseases

Diabetic Eye Disease

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is described as a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body's cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. The effect of diabetes on the eye is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes, it may not have any symptoms or may not affect sight in the early stages but, as the condition progresses, and eventually the sight will be affected. When the condition is caught early, treatment is effective at reducing or preventing damage to sight.

People with high blood sugar may experience some of these symptoms:
  • polyuria - frequent urination
  • polydipsia- increased thirst
  • Polyphagia- increased hunger.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Fruity breath
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision

There are three types of Diabetes namely:
  • Insulin dependent diabetes- Usually starts in childhood, but can occur in adults 30 to 40-year-olds, formerly known as Type 1 Diabetes.
  • Non-Insulin dependent diabetes- this is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90% - 95% of people with diabetes, also referred to as Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Gestational Diabetes-This type affects females during pregnancy

Type 2 Diabetes

The following increases your chance of developing diabetes;
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Lack of exercise and sedentary way of life
  • High cholesterol and high triglycerides
  • Poor eating habits

What do you need to do?

Measuring the glucose level in blood

The first stage would be to make some lifestyle change, such as:
  • Monitor and control your blood glucose
  • Eat healthy Foods
  • Exercise
  • Lose weight
  • Stop Smoking
Getting better control over your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels can help reduce the risk of kidney disease, eye disease, nervous system disease, heart attack, and stroke. Keeping an ideal body weight and an active lifestyle may prevent type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.

How do you treat it?

Non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2) develops slowly; some people with high blood sugar have no symptoms at the time of the diagnosis. This making it extremely important for people with diabetes to have annual dilated eye examinations, as it can help in early detection of diabetes changes in the eye. The longer you have the diabetes the higher the risk of developing diabetic eye disease. Many problems can be treated with much greater success when caught early. There are many ways of treating diabetic retinopathy, which depends on the stage of the disease and the specific problem that requires attention. The goal of the treatment is to arrest the progression of the disease. A Multidisciplinary approach is ideally used with diabetes, such as Optometrist, Ophthalmologist, Podiatrist and Endocrinologist. For more information visit your nearest SAOA Optometrist.

Useful Links


  • WHO- World Health Organization
  • AOA- American Optometric Association
  • NEI- National Eye Institute