People with diabetes have a higher risk for eye problems. Over time, high blood sugar and high blood pressure levels damage blood vessels throughout the body, including the blood vessels that supply the eye.

The retina of your eye has tiny, fragile blood vessels on it. When harmed, these blood vessels can swell, weaken, and clog. The term used to describe this damage is "diabetic retinopathy," and it’s the leading cause of blindness in adults.

Diabetes also ups your risk for cataracts and glaucoma. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your chance of having diabetes-related eye problems.

Don't ignore these symptoms

1. Blurry, cloudy, or distorted vision. In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels leak, which can alter your sight. If fluid from the blood vessels leaks into the macula (the inner part of the retina), vision may become blurry.

2. Vision loss or dark area in your vision. Sometimes new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina after old blood vessels become damaged. The new blood vessels can bleed into the eye and cause vision loss. When diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, scar tissue may build up at the back of the retina, causing the retina to break away from the eye. This is called “retinal detachment,” and it can lead to permanent blindness.

3. Spots floating in your vision (floaters). Floaters may be a sign of blood vessel leaks, and they can linger for days or months. Even if the floater goes away quickly, it’s important to call your doctor before more severe bleeding occurs.

4. Trouble seeing colors. Growing or leaking blood vessels can impair your ability to see colors.

5. Pain, pressure, or redness of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy can also lead to macula edema, or swelling of the macula, which can be painful.

6. Double vision. Seeing double may be a sign of cataracts, the clouding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts can also bring on blurred or dimmed vision.

7. Watery eyes, halos, eye aches, and headaches. These discomforts may signal glaucoma, which is an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that pinches the optic nerve. This causes nerve and retinal damage and, eventually, blindness. Other symptoms of glaucoma include blurred vision, pain, and loss of sight.

If you have any of these symptoms or any changes in vision, see your eye doctor at once. Seeking prompt treatment may save your vision.

Keep your eyes healthy

Follow your diabetes care plan as directed by your doctor to lower your risk of all complications, including diabetic retinopathy. The better you control your blood sugar, the lower your chance of eye problems.

It’s also crucial to get regular eye exams once per year—or as often as your doctor recommends—even if your eyesight seems fine.