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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of diabetes & your eyes

Tirohanga whānui ki te matehuka me ō karu

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If you have diabetes, you need regular eye checks because you have an increased risk of several eye problems. If not picked up early they can lead to the loss of part or all of your sight.

You can get damaged eyes before you notice any change in your vision. Diabetes eye checks (retinal screening) can pick up early signs of damage so it can be treated.

When diabetes eye damage is more severe, it may not be treatable and there is a risk you could lose your sight.

Types of eye disease that can affect people with diabetes

Diabetic retinopathy

Over time, high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels at the back of your eye (retina). This is known as diabetic retinopathy. Changes can range from mild to severe affecting your sight and possibly leading to blindness. You can have early diabetic retinopathy without knowing it. There are treatments that can slow the disease and save your sight if they're done early enough.


People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from glaucoma. The longer someone has had diabetes, the more likely they are to get glaucoma. Glaucoma is an increase in pressure inside your eye that can make you lose your vision. Your risk of glaucoma increases with age. You can get your eyes checked for signs of glaucoma when you have your diabetes eye check.


People with diabetes are also more likely to get cataracts, and to get them at a younger age. Their cataracts are also likely to get worse much more quickly. A cataract is when the eye's clear lens gets cloudy, blocking light.

Self-care for your eyes with diabetes

You can look after your eyes by:

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2023.


See also:


Low vision

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