Did you know that Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness in United States?

There are many factors that can cause blindness but diabetes ranks number one. The primary reason is uncontrolled blood sugars. Uncontrolled blood sugars can cause damage to the “end organs” in our body such as: fingers, toes, kidneys and eyes. Specifically, in the eyes, the elevated blood sugar causes lack of oxygen to the retina and it leads to leakage of the small blood vessels. These leaks or bleeds in the retina can cause permanent damage and loss of vision if left untreated by both your eye doctor and primary care physician. Another factor is unstable blood sugars, this can cause fluctuating vision due to swelling in the lens of the eye. This causes changes to our glasses or contact lens prescriptions in short time frames. The inability to control diabetes may increase the risk of eye infections and sty’s. In other cases, diabetes can affect the cranial nerves that are responsible for our eye movements.

The current recommendation for patients with diabetes is to have an annual dilated comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor if there is a diagnosis. If your sugar is under control with medications and diet, changes to blood vessel can occur over time, hence the importance of annual exams to detect and treat any early signs of diabetic retinopathy.

On a side note, uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause similar damage to retinal blood vessels and loss of vision. These patients also should heed the same warnings as those with diabetes.


Dr. Nicole Shams, OD.

Kirkland Vision Center