Keep an Eye Out for These Diabetic Eye Symptoms

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When you eat food, it gets broken down into nutrients that the body absorbs and utilizes in various ways. One of the nutrients it uses is sugar, which gets converted into glucose. This signals the release of insulin, which gives glucose access to the cells where it’s used as energy.

Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t utilize insulin properly. This results in high blood sugar (blood glucose) levels, which can cause a wide range of health concerns – including heart disease, kidney disease, and of course, eye disease.

diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions – including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma – that are common in the diabetic community. Over 37 million people in the US have diabetes and over one-third of them have diabetic eye disease.

Learning to live with diabetes isn’t easy and it’s something many people struggle with daily. When you add in the potential harm to an individual’s vision and overall eye health, that struggle only grows more complex and dangerous. While help does exist, you must first initiate it.

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Most Common Diabetic Eye Symptoms

Diabetes presents a number of complications and risks to an individual’s health, but eye health is often overlooked in that regard. While the CDC estimates that 90% of vision loss from diabetes is preventable, they also say only 60% of diabetics are receiving regular eye exams.

Since early detection is extremely important to the overall diagnosis and treatment of diabetic eye disease, understanding the many symptoms and warning signs of deteriorating eye health goes a long way in preserving your vision and preventing any further damage to your eyesight.

In an effort to ensure every individual has the necessary information and advice, we’re going to detail the most common symptoms of each eye condition that falls under the ‘diabetic eye disease’ spectrum – diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.

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Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that affects the tiny blood vessels located near the retina in the back of the eye. Blood vessels weaken, bulge, or leak into the retina, eventually closing off before new blood vessels form abnormally. These abnormal blood vessels cause vision issues.


The most common symptoms of early diabetic retinopathy include blurred vision, floaters (black specks in the field of vision), faded colors, fluctuating vision, or blank areas in your visual field. Nearly 40-45% of diabetic patients will experience symptoms of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Symptoms of Diabetic Macular Edema

The macula is located in the back of the eye, also known as the retina, and plays an important role in central vision. Diabetic macular edema is characterized by swelling of the macula, which impairs central vision and makes it difficult to read, drive, and notice the faces of people you know.

Diabetic macular edema is a common complication of diabetic retinopathy. When fluid leaks into the center of the retina, swelling occurs. Common symptoms of diabetic macular edema include wavy or blurry vision, floaters in your visual field, and colors fading or appearing washed out.

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Symptoms of Cataracts

Cataracts are characterized by the cloudiness of the eye’s naturally clear, crystalline lens. Looking through an eye with cataracts is a lot like looking through frosted glass or looking through a foggy window. Objects that used to be clear as day are now blurry, cloudy, distorted, and hazy.

In addition to that, some of the most common symptoms of cataracts include difficulty seeing at night, light sensitivity, fading colors, noticing glares or halos around lights, double vision, fluctuating prescriptions, and much more. Symptoms aren’t always present in the early stages.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in people above the age of 60 and the chances of developing it are doubled in diabetes patients. It refers to a group of conditions that damage the optic nerve, generally due to an increase in blood pressure and eye pressure (intraocular pressure).

Open-angle glaucoma is generally present without symptoms and if there are symptoms, they occur in the later stages. Angle-closure glaucoma symptoms include noticing halos around lights, eye redness, eye pain, hazy eyes, vomiting, upset stomach, and even vision loss.

It’s important to note that damage to the optic nerve can’t be reversed. That’s what makes early detection so important. When detected in its earliest stages, your eye doctor can help you slow glaucoma’s progress and preserve your vision for as long as possible.

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How Important Is a Diabetic Eye Exam?

It’s clear that diabetics have an increased risk of eye disease and while that can cause a great deal of stress in one’s day-to-life (as if they don’t already have enough), there are a number of things you can do to prevent vision impairment or vision loss – including a diabetic eye exam.

Diabetic eye exams consist of a series of tests designed to monitor, manage, analyze, predict, detect, and diagnose eye diseases resulting from diabetes. It’s recommended that diabetics schedule at least once per year, but your eye doctor might want you to visit more frequently.

Some of the most common tests included in a diabetic eye exam are a dilated pupil test, slit lamp test, eye chart test, fundoscopic exam, optical coherence tomography, glaucoma test, cataracts test, fluorescein angiography, and much more. It’ll take around 20-40 minutes.

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Do You Have Diabetes? Contact Us Today!

Diabetes affects nearly 11% of the entire United States’ population and a wide range of those people will suffer from an eye disease as a result. While this is an unfortunate and harsh reality, you can rest easy knowing that a majority of vision loss due to diabetes is preventable.

If you have diabetes and want to better monitor your eye health, you’ve come to the right place. At Milwaukee Eye Surgeons, we take pride in serving the Milwaukee community – especially those that have been diagnosed with diabetes – with best-in-class eye care services.

Contact us today to schedule your next diabetic eye exam. We can’t wait to help preserve the vision of you and your loved ones.

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