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Take Charge of Your Diabetes

Diabetic eye disease (also called diabetic retinopathy) is a serious problem that can lead to loss of sight. There’s a lot you can do to take charge and prevent such problems. A recent study shows that keeping your blood glucose level closer to normal can prevent or delay the onset of diabetic eye disease. Keeping your blood pressure under control is also important. Finding and treating eye problems early can help save sight.

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Image of an eye doctor placing glasses on a woman.
If you’re having trouble with your vision, talk with your health care team or eye doctor.

Signs of Diabetic Eye Disease

Because diabetic eye disease may be developing even when your sight is good, regular dilated eye exams are important for finding problems early. Some people may notice signs of vision changes. If you’re having trouble reading, if your vision is blurred, or if you’re seeing rings around lights, dark spots, or flashing lights, you may have eye problems. Be sure to tell your health care team or eye doctor about any eye problems you may have.

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Protecting Your Sight

Keep Your Blood Glucose Under Control

High blood glucose can damage your eyes with time. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose levels in the target range.

Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control

High blood pressure can damage your eyes. Have your health care provider check your blood pressure at least 4 times a year. If your blood pressure is higher than 130/80, ask your health care provider how to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. You may need medicine to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

Image of a man checking his blood pressure.
You may want to check your blood pressure at home.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Image of a doctor performing an eye exam.
Get a complete eye exam each year.

Even if you’re seeing fine, you need regular, complete dilated eye exams to protect your sight. Ask your health care provider to help you find an eye doctor who cares for people with diabetes. Before the exam, a doctor or nurse will put drops in your eyes to dilate the pupils.

You should have your eyes dilated and examined once a year. Keep track of these exams by using the records. Even if you’ve lost your sight from diabetic eye disease, you still need to have regular eye care. If you haven’t already had a complete eye exam, you should have one now if any of these conditions apply to you—

Image of a glasses case with the text, "Get your eye exam yearly."
Think of a way to remind yourself to get an eye exam each year.

  • You've had type 1 diabetes for 5 or more years.
  • You have type 2 diabetes.
  • You’re going through puberty and you have diabetes.
  • You’re pregnant and you have diabetes.
  • You’re planning to become pregnant and you have diabetes.

If you can’t afford an eye exam, ask about a payment plan or a free exam. If you’re 65 or older, Medicare may pay for diabetic eye exams (but not glasses). Ask your eye doctor to accept the Medicare fee as full payment.

Discuss Your Physical Activity Plan

If you have diabetic eye disease, talk with your health care provider about the kind of physical activity that is best for you.

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Treating Diabetic Eye Disease

Treating eye problems early can help save sight. Laser surgery may help people who have advanced diabetic eye disease. An operation called a vitrectomy may help those who have lost their sight from bleeding in the back of the eye.

If your sight is poor, an eye doctor who is an expert in low vision may be able to give you glasses or other devices that can help you use your limited vision more fully. You may want to ask your health care provider about support groups and job training for people with poor vision.

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