How to Prevent Diabetes-Related Eye Complications

How to Prevent Diabetes-Related Eye Complications

Diabetes, a disease that produces high blood sugar levels, affects more than 37.3 million Americans — 11.3% of the population. Though there are several forms, some 90-95% of cases in adults are Type 2, usually the result of an unhealthy diet, excess weight, and a sedentary lifestyle. That makes it the most preventable form.

At Omphroy Eye Care, ophthalmologist Luis C. Omphroy, MD, provides comprehensive eye exams for diabetics at his Aiea, Hawaii, office. These exams focus on preventing known eye complications from the disease and can help save your sight.

If you have diabetes or if you’re at risk for developing it, here’s what you can do to prevent diabetes-related eye complications.

Common diabetic eye health complications

High sugar levels affect all aspects of your body and may lead to heart disease, vein disease, peripheral neuropathy, and stroke. They can also lead to a number of eye complications ranging from blurry vision to total blindness. Some of the major problems affecting the eyes include:

Nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR)

Diabetic retinopathy is a major cause of blindness, affecting more than 1 in 4 American adults living with diabetes. Almost everyone with Type 1 diabetes eventually develops nonproliferative retinopathy, and most of those with Type 2 diabetes also get it. 

In the early stages of NPDR, blood vessels weaken, bulging into the retina (the light-sensing portion of the eye) or leaking blood into the tissue. As a result, lipids (fats) can deposit on the retina and impair vision. In the late stages of NPDR, the macula (central 2% of the retina) can swell, leading to blurred vision.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR)

As NPDR progresses to PDR, some blood vessels seal themselves off. This prevents oxygen and other nutrients from reaching the macula. 

New vessels proliferate on the retina’s surface to feed it, but they end up causing anything from visual floaters, which aren’t inherently harmful, to scar tissue buildup and/or a detached retina, which can rob you of sight.


Glaucoma is a collection of eye conditions that damages the optic nerve, preventing it from sending information to the brain and resulting in vision loss. The high blood sugar levels of diabetes interfere with the eye’s ability to drain properly. This increases the fluid pressure inside your eye and leads to nerve damage.

Many forms of glaucoma produce no warning signs until they reach an advanced stage, and once you lose any part of your vision, you can’t get it back.


Cataracts occur when the eye’s lens clouds over with debris. They’re a very common problem, especially as you age, but diabetics often develop them earlier, and they deteriorate faster.

How to prevent diabetes-related eye conditions

Understanding your condition is key to learning to manage it. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, talk with your doctor about a healthy diet and exercise plan that keeps your sugar levels under control. 

If you’re able to maintain sugar levels in the normal range, you’re at less of a risk for developing many different health conditions, including eye complications.

The second thing you need to do is to make regular annual appointments with Dr. Omphroy for diabetic eye exams. 

At each visit, Dr. Omphroy evaluates both your vision and your eye health, just as with a normal comprehensive eye exam, but he pays special attention to the parts of the eye that diabetes typically damages. 

After dilating your eyes to be able to view the internal structures, he performs a microscopic examination of the retina, evaluates the retinal tissue and optic nerve, and combines these with additional tests that let him examine the blood vessels, nerves, and other structures inside your eyes. 

The detailed test results allow Dr. Omphroy to diagnose problems long before you develop observable symptoms, and the sooner you can start treatment, the more sight you can save. The information also allows you to adjust your diabetes regimen, if necessary, to promote eye health.

Do you have diabetes but haven’t had a recent eye exam? It’s time to come into Omphroy Eye Care for a comprehensive diabetic eye exam to ensure everything’s OK. To get started, give our office a call at 808-487-7700 today.

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