types of diabetic eye disease

Last reviewed 12/2020

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of eye problem affecting people with diabetes. Additional diabetes-related eye problems are also seen in these patients (1)

The ocular complication of diabetes may be specific to progression of the ocular disease or, more commonly, may be non-specific recognised associations of diabetes in the eye.

  • specific
    • retinal detachment cataract
      • caused by the accumulation of fluid between the neural retina and the retinal pigment epithelium and in non-diabetic patients most commonly results from a tear in the retina (rhegmatogenous retinal detachment)
    • rubeosis iridis
      • growth of new vessels on the iris in eyes with advanced retinal ischaemia
    • cataract
      • a specific form of “snow-flake” cataract is recognised in younger diabetics
    • optic neuropathy
      • presents as swelling of the optic discs associated with gradual reduction in visual acuity
    • ocular muscle palsies
      • particularly with Type 2 diabetes
  • non specific
    • cataract
      • age-related cataract occurs earlier in patients with diabetes.
    • glaucoma
      • glaucoma is found more readily diabetics
    • retinal vein occlusion/optic disc swelling
      • diabetics are at higher risk of developing optic nerve disease due to vascular occlusion, which is distinct from diabetes-specific optic neuropathy
      • usually occurs in older patients with Type 2 diabetes and hypertension (2)