Yes, you can experience vision changes and blindness because of any type of diabetes. High blood sugars can be a key factor in leading to diabetic retinopathy, macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.

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Diabetes is a chronic condition that can cause many complications in the body, especially if you’ve lived with the condition for a long time.

While vision issues are common in people who have diabetes, many wonder whether diabetes actually causes blindness.

This article will investigate whether having diabetes can make you go blind, as well as how you can reduce your risk for diabetic eye complications and which treatments are available for these diabetes-related complications.

Having diabetes absolutely doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically lose your vision. Many people live with diabetes for the majority of their lives, and their vision is just fine.

Having diabetes — and the resulting high blood sugars (hyperglycemia) — over a long period of time can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in your eyes (the retina). This can cause decreased vision, blurriness, and dark spots, a complication called diabetic retinopathy.

If left untreated, retinopathy can lead to blindness. Retinopathy is one of the world’s leading causes of adult blindness.

But blindness isn’t inevitable. Maintaining moderate blood sugar levels and keeping hemoglobin A1C levels under 7% can reduce your risk of most diabetes complications, including retinopathy.

It’s not diabetes itself that may cause blindness, but having diabetes puts you at higher risk for developing several conditions that contribute to blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy

Retinopathy is damage to the blood vessels of the eye, which causes blood and other fluids to leak into the eye (microaneurysms). That can threaten your vision.

The earliest stages of retinopathy usually don’t have symptoms. The more advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness if not treated, and it requires immediate medical attention and treatment.

Macular edema

Diabetic macular edema is caused by damage to existing retinal blood vessels of the eye. This happens due to long periods of high blood sugar, causing the retinas to leak fluid and blood into the macula, which causes it to swell. This swelling can damage the photoreceptors, resulting in blindness.

Macular edema has a much slower onset and progression than wet macular degeneration and other eye conditions.


A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and worldwide.

When you have diabetes and high blood sugar over a long period of time, structural changes in the lens of your eye can occur, leading to the acceleration of cataract development. Older adults are also more prone to the development of cataracts.


Glaucoma is an umbrella term for eye diseases that cause vision loss and blindness with damage to the nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve.

Diabetes doubles your chances of developing glaucoma because diabetic retinopathy can cause abnormal blood vessels to proliferate, blocking fluid from properly draining out of the eye.

While doctors won’t tell you that you can prevent a diabetes complication with 100% certainty, keeping both your blood sugar levels and blood pressure levels within a healthy range goes a long way to helping to prevent diabetes-related blindness.

Research suggests maintaining an A1C of 7% or lower to prevent diabetes-related blindness.

The treatment for vision loss from diabetes will depend on the condition and its severity. Once vision loss and disease have reached a certain stage, some of the loss is permanent.

However, there are many options to help preserve vision, even once you’ve lost some due to diabetic eye disease.


Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF)medications, such as bevacizumab, ranibizumab, or aflibercept, block the growth of abnormal blood vessels from growing in the eye. This can be used to stop leaks in the blood vessels and is used to treat retinopathy and diabetic macular edema.

These treatments can halt further vision loss and may improve remaining vision as well.


In a vitrectomy, the vitreous gel is surgically removed from the eye to help improve vision before severe damage has set in. It’s typically performed when there’s bleeding in the eye of retinal detachment. It can also be performed to remove scar tissue and is used to treat diabetic retinopathy.


Cataract surgery is a simple and common procedure where your doctor can remove the cloudy lens of your eye, replacing it with an artificial lens.

Many people experience improved vision after cataract surgery as well, requiring a new eyeglass prescription, however, that will depend on if you have any other diabetic eye disease.

Laser treatment

Photocoagulation can help prevent vision loss, especially if performed early before severe retina damage is done. The later stages of diabetic retinopathy can require a more aggressive form of laser therapy called scatter (pan-retinal) photocoagulation surgery.

This limits the growth of new blood vessels in the eye, which can be extremely effective but may not work in every case.

Diabetes in and of itself doesn’t cause blindness. However, the prolonged high blood sugars that accompany life with diabetes may damage the blood vessels of the eye and can cause several eye diseases that increase your risk for vision loss and blindness. That may include diabetic retinopathy, macular edema, cataracts, or glaucoma.

These eye conditions are treatable with medications, laser treatments, or surgery that can help preserve remaining vision, even if the vision loss is irreversible.

To help reduce your risk of diabetes-related blindness, it’s important to maintain healthy blood sugar, A1C levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.