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Diabetic eye disease FAQs


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What is diabetic eye disease?

This is a term used to describe the common eye complications seen in people with diabetes. It includes diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular oedema, cataracts and glaucoma.

Read our cataract FAQs

Read our glaucoma FAQs

Can I prevent diabetic retinopathy?

You can reduce your risk by having your eyes checked as soon as possible after being diagnosed with diabetes (this is called a screening test) and then at regular intervals thereafter.

Keeping the diabetes under control is the most important thing you can do – this means eating a balanced diet, getting exercise, not smoking, and monitoring your blood sugar levels. You should also see your doctor regularly to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked. If you experience any changes in your vision, have your eyes checked immediately.

What’s the difference between diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema?

Diabetic macular oedema is a complication of diabetic retinopathy.

It occurs when the swelling involves the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for central vision. Vision can become blurred and distorted, resulting in trouble reading, recognising faces and driving. Macular oedema (swelling) is the usual cause of vision loss related to diabetes and the level of impairment can be significant.

Can diabetic retinopathy be cured?

Vision can often be improved by treatment, but the main goal is to stabilise your condition and prevent it from getting worse. The three main treatments of diabetic retinopathy are injections into the eye, laser treatment or vitrectomy surgery. Your doctor will recommend the most appropriate course of treatment.

Does smoking cause diabetic eye disease?

Smoking is not a risk factor for diabetic eye damage, but it can damage the eye in other ways. It increases the risk of developing cataracts,1 blockages of retinal arteries2 and the wet form of age-related macular degeneration3. Diabetics who smoke also increase their risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.

Are the treatments for diabetic eye diseases painful?

Special anaesthetic eye drops are usually used to prevent pain and, for patients undergoing vitrectomy surgery, a sedative is given to relieve anxiety. Following laser treatment or surgery, you may feel some mild discomfort the next day.

Do you offer payment plans?

Payment plans can be used to access consultations, treatment and surgery at all Vision Eye Institute Clinics and Vision Hospital Group day surgeries.

Vision Eye Institute patients can access a plan to suit their needs through one of the following options.*

  • LatitudePay for services up to $1,000 – interest free, ten weekly payments, no account fees, fast approval
  • LatitudePay+ for services up to $10,000 – interest free, flexible repayment period (6 or 12 months), low monthly account fee, fast approval

*Approved customers only. Before applying for any form of credit, always read the full terms and conditions.

References/further reading

  1. Iroku-Malize T, Kirsch S. Eye Conditions in Older Adults: Cataracts. FP Essent. 2016 Jun;445:17-23. ↩︎
  2. Kolar P. Risk factors for central and branch retinal vein occlusion: a meta-analysis of published clinical data. J Ophthalmol. 2014;2014:724780. doi: 10.1155/2014/724780 ↩︎
  3. Mitchell P, Liew G, Gopinath B, Wong TY. Age-related macular degeneration. Lancet. 2018 Sep 29;392(10153):1147-1159. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31550-2   ↩︎
  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. EyeSmart: Diabetic Eye Disease. USA, 8 October 2020. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/diabetic-eye-disease [Accessed online 6 July 2021].
  5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. EyeSmart: What Is Diabetic Retinopathy? USA, 17 June 2021. Available at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-diabetic-retinopathy [Accessed online 6 July 2021].
  6. Cheung N, Mitchell P, Wong TY. Diabetic retinopathy. Lancet. 2010 Jul 10;376(9735):124-36. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)62124-3

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

Date last reviewed: 2022-01-25 | Date for next review: 2024-01-25

IMPORTANT: If you are concerned about your eyes and require an urgent consultation, DO NOT use this form. Please call one of our clinics during office hours or contact your nearest emergency department.

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