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5 Facts about Diabetic Eye Disease You Need To Know

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There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2 , and is caused by multiple factors. Such as, being overweight (obesity), leading an unhealthy lifestyle (think about drinking lots of sugary drinks etc.) or genetically. 

Type 1 Diabetes

With type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin which is a natural hormone. In fact, the immune system accidentally destroys the cells that produce the insulin. As a result, the body is not able to absorb glucose (sugar) from any consumption. 

The glucose builds up in the bloodstream and the body is not able to convert it into energy. This process gives symptoms such as having to pee a lot but also feeling thirsty all the time. However, only 1 in 10 people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes and need to inject themselves with insulin.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. 9 in 10 people are type 2 diabetes patients. It is a chronic disease in which the sugar level in the blood is too high. This results in an incorrect response of the body to insulin.

We call this insensitivity to insulin or insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes patients typically get medication and advice on nutrition and exercise. There is also a chance that someone needs to inject insulin.

Most people probably heard of diabetes, but did you also know that diabetes is one of the biggest reason for eye diseases? And how it affects our eyes and vision? We decided to list 5 facts you need to know on diabetic eye diseases!

Fact 1: Diabetes can cause eye problems

There are four main eye diseases which could be caused by diabetes: 

  • Diabetes-related Retinopathy:
    This occurs when there are bleedings in the retina caused by small blood vessel leaks and regular bleedings. It causes black spots and leads to blindness if not treated correctly and on time.
  • Diabetes-related Macular Edema:
    This occurs when small blood vessels in the center of your retina, also called the macula, start to leak and therefore cause the retina to swell up. This creates a white haze in your sight and hinders your vision.  
  • Cataract:
    When suffering from cataract you experience clouding of the eye. It typically develops slowly and could affect both eyes. It comes with age but could also occurs due to trauma or radiation exposure, birth, or as a reaction on a previous eye surgery.
  • Glaucoma:
    Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the nerve fibers of the optic nerve gradually deteriorate. 
    The optic nerve fibers direct the image formed by the eye to the brain, which creates our vision. The loss of optic nerve fibers creates blind spots in the image.

Fortunately, eye diseases caused by diabetes can be prevented or managed by annually visiting your eye doctor and with a healthy lifestyle. So take good care of yourself and try to prevent it as much as you can!

Fact 2: When does it occur 

People with diabetes normally get eye complaints about 10 years after the diagnosis. When diagnosed make sure to visit your eye doctor every year. When the eye problems are detected in time, they can be treated and won’t be a threat. These eye problems typically occur for people who are between the 30 and 50 years old.

Prevent any eye diseases by having a healthy lifestyle and your annual check-ups. Make sure that you know what symptoms could occur when having one of these eye diseases and directly go to the doctor when you notice something!

Symptoms could be a blurry vision, increased sensitivity of light, seeing “halos” around lights and yellowing of colors.

Fact 3: More people suffer from diabetes eye diseases than you think

Now let’s take a look at some (international) facts and figures of eye diseases caused by diabetes:

  • About 420 million adults (between the age of 20-79 years old) were diagnosed with diabetes in 2017. By the year 2045, it is expected that this number increases to almost  630 million.
  • In 2017, almost 320 million people were at risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 
  • China, India and the United States of America have the highest number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 
  • The greatest number of people with diabetes in 2017 were between 40 and 59 years of age.
  • 1 in 2 (212 million) people with diabetes are unaware they have the disease.

Fact 4: Reduce the chance of eye disease by losing weight 

Not only diabetes can disappear but also the chance on eye diseases or complaints! With the right diet and healthy habits it is possible to reduce your diabetes eye complaints or completely resolve it. In addition, a healthy lifestyle also means exercising! Find out more on having a good diet and healthy lifestyle in this report from the Harvard Medical School.

Do note: this is not the case for everyone. Before starting to lose weight, talk to your doctor about the effects on your medication when already diagnosed. 

Fact 5: Remember your ABC’s to protect your eye health

Luckily, we don’t have to wait till it’s too late and we suffer from an eye disease due to diabetes. Therefore, it is necessary to always keep in mind at least the following five rules:

  • A – A1C blood glucose, check every 6 months
  • B – Blood pressure, manage your blood pressure to protect organs and eyes 
  • C – Cholesterol, healthy cholesterol levels are key
  • D – Don’t smoke, bad for your health
  • E – Eyes, keep your eyes healthy with an annual dilated eye exam and prevent surprises

(source: Prevent Blindness)

When following these ABC’s, there is still the possibility you will get diabetes. However, trying to prevent it is always better than doing nothing! 

Are you suffering from diabetes and notice some strange unusual things in your eyes? Call us on +31 20 261 83 10 or send an email to for a consult! View what treatments we perform and read more on the expertise of our ophthalmologist Drs. Feike Gerbrandy.


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