Diabetes and Eye Diseases Common Questions About Eye Problems With Diabetes

Patients suffering from diabetes must expect secondary diseases. Diabetes can also cause eye problems. Changes in the retina often go unnoticed. Regular checks by the ophthalmologist are all the more important in order to avoid irreparable damage.

How does diabetes damage the eyes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects millions of Germans. Poor blood sugar levels and high blood pressure that persist for years have a damaging effect on large and small blood vessels. The changes caused to the blood vessels also lead to damage to the small capillaries in the eye. The result is brittle and thickened vessel walls and vasodilatation. Leaky vessels can allow blood and fluid to enter the retina. Pronounced calcification of the arteries, which place the eye under oxygen deficiency, is also possible. If there is no timely therapy, the result is severe visual impairment, retinal detachment or, in the worst case, complete blindness.

Which eye problems are caused by diabetes?

Diabetes can therefore lead to serious eye problems, which makes regular monitoring by the ophthalmologist necessary. Diabetic retinopathy or diabetic retinal changes are common in diabetics. In addition, diabetic macular edema or lens opacity (cataracts) are eye problems that can be caused by diabetes.

An overview of diabetic eye diseases:

  • Diabetic retinopathy

    A distinction is made between non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), depending on the stage of the disease. The NPDR describes the early stage and most commonly affects diabetics. During this phase of the disease, there is already damage to the vessels in the eye, but at this point in time they do not yet cause any symptoms and are usually not noticed by the patient. Annual preventive examinations for diabetics are therefore important, because with timely therapy the progression of the disease can be stopped.

    In the late stages of PDR, bleeding or macular edema as a result of vascular damage can suddenly lead to severe visual impairment and even blindness. Detachment of the retina is also possible under certain circumstances. This stage urgently needs therapy.

  • Diabetic macular edema

    The macula can also be damaged by diabetes. If a swelling forms inside the eye due to the leakage of fluid described above, it is called macular edema. This edema impairs sharp vision and, without therapy, can lead to permanently impaired visual function. Treatment is therefore extremely important at this stage too.

  • Lens opacity (cataract)

    Diabetes can also be the cause of premature lens opacification. Since there is, again, no pain and only a gradual loss of the visual function, the disease often goes unnoticed by patients at first. It is also an important reason for regular visits at the ophthalmologist’s.

How does diabetes affect the eyes?

As previously explained, persistent high blood pressure and poor blood sugar levels are a risk to the blood vessels. Thus, diabetes has a direct effect on the eyes. This usually results in damage to the small vessels in the eye. These, in turn, can cause impaired visual function or even blindness due to missed controls or non-treatment.

How does high blood pressure affect the eyes?

An important additional risk factor for diabetic retinopathy is increased blood pressure. High blood pressure over many years poses a risk for damaged vessels. Therefore, in addition to the optimal setting of blood sugar levels, monitoring the blood pressure is essential for healthy blood vessels and eyes.

Further information on diabetes and the eye

Don't be afraid of the ophthalmologist!

Our ophthalmological practice specializes in the detection and treatment of diabetes-related eye diseases. We use the latest technology in ophthalmic medicine, work very sensitively, absolutely sterile and particularly precisely, so that examinations and treatment can be experienced quickly and painlessly.

  • Dr Lemmen Vorschaubild

    PD Dr. Klaus Dieter Lemmen


    Many years of experience as senior physician and chief physician in specific eye clinics. Focus: Age-related macular degeneration, retinal diseases and diabetes-induced retina diseases

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  • Dr. K Vahdat Vorschaubild

    Dr. Katarina Vahdat


    Focus: general ophthalmology and pediatric ophthalmology. Treatment of various macula diseases, diabetic retinopathy and diabetic maculopathy

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