Diabetes affects around 500,000 Australians.  Many diabetics do not have any more vision problems than non-diabetics. However nearly 70 per cent of diabetics within 15 years of diagnosis have a related ocular issue.  The most significant of these diabetes effects is Diabetic Retinopathy. This is detectable by your optometrist.

People who suffer from Diabetes are advised to have, at least, yearly eye examinations, or more. These annual examinations involve a full vision check, dilating drops to allow the best quality examination of your crystalline lens and retina; and either Digital Retinal Photography  (DRP) or Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT) to comprehensively assess for any presence of complications.

Changes that Diabetes can cause in the Eyes are:

Changes in Prescription/Vision:

As your Blood Glucose Level changes the refractive (light bending) properties of the crystalline lens in your eye can change. This can potentially lead to large changes in your glasses prescription.

Sometimes these changes in your prescription may occur even before you are symptomatic or have been diagnosed with diabetes.  Sometimes, we will suggest that a patient should see their GP  to check their sugar levels if we measure an unusual change in your prescription.

These changes can sometimes reverse when your sugar levels have stabilised.


Diabetics often will develop cataract earlier than those who are not diabetic, in addition, these cataracts can worsen more quickly and thus require surgical intervention more promptly.

More about cataract

Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetic Retinopathy may occur after diabetes has been present for some years. These changes occur at the back of the eye in the retina. The are three possible variations of this condition, background (sometimes called simple) retinopathy, proliferative retinopathy and macular oedema.

Background Retinopathy: This form rarely causes any vision to be lost and therefore does not require any treatment other than regular eye examinations by your optometrist.   However, this may require visits more than once a year.  We will notify  your General Practitioner of these changes, as they can be an indicator that your current level of diabetes control is not adequate.

Proliferative Retinopathy: This form is more serious and requires early treatment to prevent serious vision loss. We can recognise the signs that the condition might develop or detect it in its early stages. Once proliferative retinopathy is diagnosed, you will be referred to an eye surgeon for further evaluation and treatment.   Treatment of this condition has a better chance of success if it is applied early.

Diabetic Macular Oedema: This form of retinal change associated with Diabetes involves fluid build up within the layers of the retina.  This can be very difficult to detect in its early stages.  If you have other Diabetic Retinopathy near to the macula, are insulin dependent or have been diabetic for a long period, we will routinely perform an OCT to better evaluate the retinal tissue to ensure that no oedema is present.  Patients in these groups are more likely to develop Diabetic Macular Oedema.

Learn more about Diabetes at  Diabetes NSW.