Diabetes: How does it affect the eyes?

Written by: Dr Rupal Morjaria
Published: | Updated: 08/08/2023
Edited by: Sophie Kennedy

Uncontrolled blood sugar and high blood pressure, along with other risk factors, can mean patients suffering from diabetes are more likely to develop complications affecting eye health and vision. In this informative article, highly respected consultant ophthalmologist Dr Rupal Morjaria offers expert insight on the most common eye-related complications of diabetes.

Close of an eye that's affected by diabetes

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the fifth most common cause of blindness in the world and a major cause of blindness among the working population in developed countries. Diabetic retinopathy is treatable and vision loss can be prevented or delayed if treated early.


Diabetic complications in the eye occur due to the effects of poor blood sugar control together with other risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. It can result in mild diabetic changes such as a few haemorrhages that do not require treatment but do need monitoring. More severe disease, which causes bleeding, new vessels in the eye or fluid build-up in the camera film of the eye, require treatment.



How is diabetes and glaucoma connected?

People who suffer with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma. This occurs when the pressure in the eye is too high and can cause damage to the nerve sending messages to the brain. If this is not detected early, it can cause changes in your field of vision. It is important that the doctor monitoring your eyes for diabetes also checks the pressure of the eye and the nerve at the back of the eyes.



What is the connection between diabetes and cataracts?

A cataract is a cloudy lens. The lens helps to focus images from the outside world onto a small part of the camera film called the fovea. As people get older, their lens gets thicker and ‘yellower’. Having fluctuating blood sugars can expedite this process and people with diabetes may require cataract surgery earlier than others.



How do you achieve the best outcomes for patients with diabetes?

I specialise in seeing patients with diabetes and cataracts and am thorough to take additional steps to avoid swelling and inflammation after surgery. In my own practice, I always fully assess the eye for risks of post-operative macular oedema before my patients undergo any type of surgery.


People with diabetes may need additional treatments during or after surgery to help them get the best outcome. Sometimes additional injections of anti-VEGF agents or steroids are needed at the time of cataract surgery to help get optimal results, but discussing the risks and benefits of these treatments is an essential part of my conversations with patients.





Dr Morjaria is one of the UK’s leading consultant ophthalmologists that specialises in the treatment of cataracts in patients with diabetes. If you wish to schedule a consultation with Dr Morjaria. you can do so by visiting her Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Rupal Morjaria

Dr Rupal Morjaria is a leading consultant ophthalmologist. She is experienced in all aspects of ophthalmology with a specific interest in medical retina diseases, including macular degeneration, diabetes, uveitis and retinal genetics. To date, she has performed over 2,000 cataract surgeries. Dr Morjaria has also carried out over 2,000 retinal and YAG laser procedures and over 5,000 injections into and around the eye.

Dr Morjaria often uses steroids and VEGF treatments such as Eylea, Lucentis, and Avastin for retinal conditions. She is the retinal genetics lead in her department, and she oversees and triages patients with all eye conditions from the second biggest eye casualty department in the UK.

After her Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at Birmingham University, Dr Morjaria carried out ophthalmology training at the West Midlands Deanery. She completed a 3-year specialist fellowship and PhD at the Oxford Deanery based at the John Radcliffe Hospital. She studied the impact of eye disease on sleep/awake patterns for her PhD which was awarded to her by the University College London and Oxford University in 2018. Dr Morjaria was previously a locum medical retina and uveitis consultant at Queen Elizabeth, University Hospitals Birmingham.

She has completed all the core medical and surgical training required by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and has obtained the level of competency required in each subspecialty. She is a clinical supervisor to ophthalmology trainees and nurses. She has published over 20 peer-reviewed research articles, has lectured nationally and internationally and taught extensively in her field. 

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