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Does diabetes affect the eye?

Diabetes can affect all parts of the eye from the front of the eye to the back. Diabetes can cause dysfunction to the eye muscles and the nerves that control them, as well affect the cornea, natural lens, vitreous and retina including the macula.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness in working aged people. It is identified in one third of people with diabetes, and its presence is associated with increased risk of systemic, and potentially life-threatening complications of diabetes

What are some of the risk factors for diabetes to lead to eye problems?

The duration of diabetes since diagnosis and how well the sugar levels have been controlled over time. The longer duration of diabetes and the poorer the control, often the more severe diabetic change to the eye.

Will I know if I have diabetic eye disease?

No, not necessarily. In more severe cases of diabetic retinopathy patients can have blurred or distorted vision but other times patients have no symptoms. This means regular eye examinations are required to pick up problems.

How does diabetes affect the macula and the retina?

Diabetes damages the blood vessel capillaries in the retina. This can cause “microaneurysms” in the blood vessels and also cause the blood vessels to become leaky and haemorrhage. Fluid can get under the retina and the macula and this can cause blurred and distorted vision.

How is this treated?

Systemic disease control is the foundation of any treatment in diabetic retinopathy. There is longstanding evidence that improving blood sugar control and optimising blood pressure reduces the risk of blinding complications of diabetes. However, sometimes this is insufficient and treatment of the eye is required.

The need for ophthalmic treatment depends on the severity of retinopathy and the presence of macula oedema (swelling of the central retina).

Macula oedema was traditionally treated with retinal laser that was lightly applied to the macula, sometimes targeting microaneurysms. Today, oedema is more commonly treated with an anti-VEGF agent such aflibercept (Eylea) or ranibizumab (Lucentis), or with an intravitreal depot of steroid such as triamcinolone, or a long-active delivery system such as the intravitreal dexamethasone implant, Ozurdex.

Some patients without macula oedema, but with widespread damage to the retina also benefit from treatment – sometimes with a medication injected into the eye, and sometimes with retinal laser or a surgery called vitrectomy. Dr Adam Rudkin and Dr Jaz Aujla specialise in treating retinopathy and it’s complications.

Other information required?

Below is a helpful website to visit. We look forward to caring for your eyes and your diabetes.



contact us


PHONE: 08 7070 2502

FAX: 08 8125 3880

POST: Specialist Eye, Glenelg Community Hospital, 
5 Farrell St, Glenelg South SA 5045


Thank you for your support in the co-management of patients with us. 
For urgent cases, please call the clinic directly.
Alternatively, you can email or 
fax through your referral.

PHONE: 08 7070 2502

FAX: 08 8125 3880

EMAIL: [email protected]