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Diabetes and Your Vision

Avoid vision loss with preventive eye care

A woman having her exam examinedDid you know regular eye exams are a critical part of self-care for people with diabetes? An eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) should regularly check your eye health. High blood sugar levels can damage your eyes and even lead to diabetic retinopathy. This condition is the leading cause of blindness in adults and can’t be reversed. However, early detection can decrease the risk of serious vision loss.

It’s important to know how diabetic retinopathy happens, its symptoms, and how to prevent it.

When does it happen?

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high glucose levels that damage the blood vessels at the back of your eyes. Over time, blood vessels grow weak and leak fluid into the eye. When this happens, you might experience blurry or distorted vision.

Controlling your glucose levels can help your eyes stay strong. A healthy diet, exercise, and medications can contribute to managing diabetes. Talk with a doctor or health care provider to learn how to reduce your risk of severe retinopathy.


You may not be aware of diabetic retinopathy at first because it happens slowly. Sometimes symptoms can come and go. These symptoms could include blurry vision, loss of vision, trouble seeing at night, or floaters. Diabetic retinopathy symptoms can seem better one day and worse another. If you’re concerned, try keeping a journal of possible symptoms over time.

Delay vision loss

There are a few ways to delay vision loss, like lowering your blood glucose levels. Your doctor or health care provider may suggest treatments like medication or recommend exercise and a healthy diet.

Regular dilated eye exams and/or diabetic ocular tele-retinal health screenings are important for early detection. These exams are often annual, but a doctor or health care provider may suggest more often or less frequent exams as necessary.

How we can help

Keep up with regular health screenings such as eye exams. Talk with your VA health care team about which screenings you’ll need. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition that can affect your sight. If you’re worried about this condition, use Secure Messaging to ask your doctor or health care provider about having an annual diabetic eye exam as soon as possible.

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Read More

Diabetes: Living Your Life (Veterans Health Library)

Diabetes Over 50

Understanding Diabetic Nerve Damage

VA Vision Care Benefits (VA)

Updated November 29, 2021