Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetic Eye Diseases

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye conditions that can affect people with diabetes. These eye conditions include the following:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Diabetic macular edema (DME)
  • Cataract
  • Glaucoma

How Diabetes Can Affect The Eyes

The retina is a light-sensitive layer in the eye that converts light into electrical signals. These signals are sent to the brain that turns them into the images that you see. A healthy retina is important for a good eyesight. The retina requires a constant supply of blood that it receives from a network of small blood vessels.


Diabetes affects this blood supply to the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or be blocked which eventually damages your eyesight. Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy and causes swelling in an area called macula. Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. Adults with diabetes are 2-5 times more likely than those without diabetes to develop a cataract.1 Glaucoma damages the optic nerve of the eye.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy Is One Of The Diseases Common In Diabetics


There are few early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. The symptoms develop gradually over a couple of years to decades. The early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can be diagnosed only with the help of diabetic retinopathy screening tests. The symptoms of retinopathy include the following:2

  • Gradually worsening vision
  • Sudden vision loss
  • Shapes floating in your field of vision (floaters)
  • Blurred or patchy vision
  • Eye pain or redness

Diabetic retinopathy develops in stages.


Stages Of Diabetic Retinopathy

The main stages of diabetic retinopathy are explained here. You may not necessarily experience all of these stages.3

1. Stage One – Background Retinopathy

This stage is very common among diabetics. Tiny bulges (microaneurysms) appear in the blood vessels in the retina, which may leak small amounts of blood.


At this stage, your eyesight is not affected. However, it may put you at a risk of developing vision problems in the future. This stage does not require you to undertake treatment; however, care should be taken to prevent it from worsening. The chances of it progressing to further stages within three years is 25 percent if both your eyes are affected.

2. Stage Two – Pre-proliferative Retinopathy

In this stage, more severe changes may be observed in the retina, including bleeding into the retina.


At this stage, you may be at a high risk of developing vision problems. You may also have to get your eyes monitored frequently – every three or six months.

3. Stage Three – Proliferative Retinopathy

This means that new blood vessels and scar tissues have formed on your retina. This can cause significant bleeding in the retina and can cause retinal detachment. Retinal detachment occurs when your retina pulls away from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and nutrients.


At this stage, you are at a risk of losing your vision completely. You will have to take treatments that will help stabilize your vision; however, there is no possibility to restore the vision you have lost.

The following symptoms are experienced when you have retinal detachment.4 Retinal detachment usually occurs in one eye.


Symptoms Of Retinal Detachment

  • The sudden appearance of floaters in the field of vision. Floaters are dark spots, specks, or streaks that float across the field of vision
  • A cobweb effect of lots of little floaters
  • Sudden flashes of light in the affected eye that lasts for a second
  • Blurred or distorted vision


The main treatments for advanced diabetic retinopathy are:5

  • Laser treatment
  • Injections of medication into your eyes
  • An operation to remove blood or scar tissue from your eyes

Symptoms Of Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

Trouble With Reading Is A Symptom Of Diabetic Macular Edema

The symptoms of diabetic macular edema are as follows:

  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble with reading
  • Recognizing faces in the center of your vision

This is also known as diabetic maculopathy.


The following are the current treatments available to treat diabetic macular edema.6

  • Laser photocoagulation
  • Corticosteroids
  • Anti-VEGF therapy

Symptoms Of Cataract

Cataracts Cause Clouding Of The Eye's Lens

The following symptoms may be experienced if you have a cataract.7

  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision – seeing two images instead of one
  • Extra sensitivity to light
  • Troubled night vision
  • Faded vision – seeing bright colors as faded or yellow instead


Cataracts can be removed only with surgery.8

Symptoms Of Glaucoma

Glaucoma Is A Diabetic Eye Disease

There are two primary forms of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG). Open-angle glaucoma shows no warning symptoms. Therefore, even if you have it, it becomes difficult to diagnose it unless you have regular eye tests.

Angle-closure glaucoma have the following symptoms:9

  • Hazy or blurred vision
  • The appearance of rainbow-colored circles around bright lights
  • Severe eye and head pain
  • Nausea or vomiting (accompanying severe eye pain)
  • Sudden sight loss


Glaucoma damage is permanent. However, surgery can prevent further damage. There are two main types of laser surgery to treat glaucoma.10

  • Trabeculoplasty
  • Iridotomy