I have diabetes. My insulin therapy is working, and my blood sugar is well-controlled. Is that enough to prevent eye problems like diabetic macular edema?

Keeping your blood sugar under control is a great start. But to monitor your eye health and catch problems early, you also need an annual eye exam.

Good blood sugar control can make it less likely that you'll have eye problems due to diabetes. But it doesn't erase your risk of developing eye and vision-related health concerns.

Many people who have diabetes eventually develop some damage to the retina — a condition called diabetic retinopathy. And it may happen no matter how well they control their blood sugar. Studies show that 20 years after a diabetes diagnosis, more than 90% of people with type 1 diabetes and more than 60% of people with type 2 diabetes have diabetic retinopathy. The condition often is mild and may not affect vision.

But even in mild cases, diabetic retinopathy can trigger diabetic macular edema. That's swelling in the part of the eye's retina called the macula. If left untreated, this serious eye disorder may lead to partial vision loss or even blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema often have no symptoms in the early stages. That's why it's so important to get regular eye checkups. Get an eye exam that includes dilation of your eyes every year. That raises the chances your health care provider will find these conditions as soon as possible. And if you notice any vision problems, contact your health care provider right away. Prompt treatment of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema often can prevent vision loss.


Kevin D. Chodnicki, M.D.

Feb. 28, 2023 See more Expert Answers