Diabetic Eye Disease


People with diabetes can have an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. This is when high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can swell and leak. Or they can close, stopping blood from passing through. Sometimes abnormal new blood vessels grow on the retina. All of these changes can steal your vision.

What Causes Diabetic Retinopathy?

When blood sugar levels are too high for extended periods of time, it can damage capillaries (tiny blood vessels) that supply blood to the retina. Over time, these blood vessels begin to leak fluids and fats, causing edema (swelling). Eventually, these vessels can close off, called ischemia. These problems are signs of non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

As diabetic eye problems are left untreated, proliferative diabetic retinopathy can develop. Blocked blood vessels from ischemia can lead to the growth of new abnormal blood vessels on the retina (called neovascularization) which can damage the retina by causing wrinkling or retinal detachment. Neovascularization can even lead to glaucoma damage to the optic nerve that carries images from your eye to your brain.

Maintaining strict control of blood sugar and blood pressure, as well as having regular diabetic eye screenings by your ophthalmologist are keys to preventing diabetic retinopathy and vision loss. Controlling blood sugar and also help to prevent the development of cataracts, as diabetes is a risk factor for cataracts.

What Are Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy?
  • Seeing an increase number of floaters
  • Having blurry vision
  • Having vision that changes sometimes from blurry to clear
  • Seeing blank or dark areas in your field of vision
  • Having poor night vision 
  • Noticing colors appear faded or washed out
  • Loss of vision
Who is at Risk for Diabetic Retinopathy?

People with diabetes are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin effectively to control blood sugar levels. 

Additional factors can increase the risk: 

  • Disease duration: the longer someone has diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
  • Poor control of blood sugar levels over time
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Pregnancy

Our doctors recommend diabetic eye exams every year. Contact our office to schedule your diabetic eye exam today.

Make an Appointment

Visiting Sub-Specialists

C. Armitage Harper, III, M.D.
  • 512-353-1300
Jose Agustin Martinez, M.D.
  • 512-353-1300
Mark Levitan, M.D.
  • 512-353-1300
Ryan Carter Young, M.D.
  • 512-353-1300