Diabetes & Eye Health

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Diabetes is the single largest cause of blindness in Canada. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels inside your eye, resulting in blood leakage, growth of new blood vessels and other changes. If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can result. Diabetic retinopathy can affect 23% of people with type 1 and 14 % of people with type 2 diabetes.


In the early stages, retinopathy is often without symptoms, so regular eye exams are the best way to detect changes.

Diabetes and its complications can affect many parts of the eye. Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness, farsightedness and premature presbyopia – the inability to focus on close objects. It can result in early cataracts, glaucoma, and paralysis of the nerves that control the eye muscles or pupil, and decreased corneal sensitivity. Visual symptoms of diabetes include fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, sudden loss of vision, blotches or spots in vision, and flashes and floaters within the eyes.


Annual eye exams are a crucial part of health care for people with diabetes and can help identify retinopathy as early as possible. Changes in the eye due to diabetes can be detected during an eye exam and are often the first indication that a person may have the disease or that blood sugar levels are not being controlled. Stable blood sugar reduces the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, so it is important to monitor and maintain control of your diabetes. See your physician regularly and follow instructions about diet, exercise and medication.

People with diabetes should have annual eye exams including an OCT or Optos scan. (unless it has been recommended to have more frequent evaluations.)


In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy is monitored through eye health examinations. As the disease progresses it may be treated by an ophthalmologist with injections of anti-VEGF therapy into the eye, laser therapy or vitreoretinal surgery as may be required.

Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial, as treatment is much more likely to be successful at an early stage. Our Doctors can co-manage treatment with an opthamologist or retinal surgeon.