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How Diabetes Causes Blindness - Topic Overview

Other eye problems

People who have diabetes are also at risk for other problems, such as cataracts and glaucoma, that damage vision. They are also at risk for a severe form of glaucoma called neovascular glaucoma. Cataracts are frequently caused by a lifetime of sun exposure, and diabetes speeds up their formation.

The following table outlines the major causes of blindness in people who have diabetes.

Causes of blindness and how to prevent it


How it causes vision loss

Preventive measures

Diabetic retinopathyDamages the retina, the section of your eye responsible for capturing visual information
  • Controlling hemoglobin A1c levels
  • Controlling blood pressure
  • Having regular eye exams
  • Using laser surgery early to treat retinopathy
GlaucomaIncreases pressure in the eye, which results in damage to your retina
  • Having regular eye exams to check for the disease
CataractsCloud the lens, the section of your eye responsible for focusing light on your retina
  • Protecting your eyes from ionizing radiation (X-rays) and UV radiation (sunlight)
  • Controlling blood sugar levels

If you notice problems with your vision, you should immediately seek medical evaluation by an ophthalmologist. Regular eye exams are meant to detect any retinopathy at the nonproliferative stage, where it may still be treated with a good chance of success.

If nonproliferative retinopathy is not detected and treated early, it may progress to proliferative retinopathy. During proliferative retinopathy, your body tries to correct the microaneurysms. To replace blood vessels that have broken or leaked, new blood vessels begin to form. These blood vessels are fragile and may break easily, causing bleeding into the middle of the eye and clouding vision. They also form scar tissue that can pull on the retina and cause the retina to detach from the wall of the eye.

With aggressive management of your condition—keeping hemoglobin A1c levels below 7% and controlling blood pressure—along with regular screening of your vision, you may be able to prevent or delay blindness.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 27, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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