Raised blood sugar levels due to diabetes may damage blood vessels and organs, leading to complications such as vision loss. Some ways to cope include getting support from a low vision specialist and using various aids and devices.

Diabetes reduces the body’s ability to manage blood sugar levels due to issues producing or responding to a hormone called insulin.

Diabetes can increase a person’s risk of eye health problems that, in some cases, may lead to vision loss.

There are several ways to manage vision-related diabetes complications and improve quality of life.

Diabetes resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on diabetes.

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Some eye doctors focus on helping people with vision loss cope with daily life changes through vision rehabilitation.

They can help people with daily activities such as:

  • reading
  • using computers
  • recognizing faces
  • driving
  • watching TV
  • cooking
  • working

While rehabilitation can greatly improve independence, just 20–25% of people with vision loss visit a low vision specialist.

The following directories may help people with vision loss find a low vision specialist:

Getting a referral from a regular eye doctor or general doctor may be necessary before consulting with a low vision specialist.

A low vision specialist can recommend various aids and devices to people with vision issues.

Low vision devices

These devices may include:

  • spectacle-mounted magnifiers to help with reading
  • handheld or spectacle-mounted telescopes for watching TV or driving
  • handheld or stand magnifiers to make reading labels and price tags easier
  • electronic magnification devices to enlarge and brighten or improve focus and contrast

Low vision aids

Assistive technology can also help people with low vision.

The following accessibility features on smartphones, tablets, computers, and e-readers can support people living with visual impairment:

  • text enlargement programs
  • text-to-speech widgets
  • dictation features

Other products that can support people living with vision loss include:

  • magazines and books with larger type
  • audiobooks
  • talking watches
  • self-threading needles
  • closed-caption and audio-described films and TV shows

Diabetes complications, such as vision loss, can be frustrating and life changing. People may feel discouraged or feel as though attempts to manage their condition are futile.

This may lead a person to use coping mechanisms that worsen diabetes symptoms and complications, also known as diabetes distress.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes distress occurs in 33–50% of people with diabetes in any 18-month period.

It commonly occurs in:

  • women with diabetes
  • people who report symptoms of depression
  • younger middle-aged adults
  • individuals with complications such as vision loss
  • people who are having difficulty managing their diabetes

It is vital to manage diabetes and related mental health issues to prevent further complications and worsening vision loss. This may involve:

People with impaired vision have a higher risk of depression and anxiety than those without vision problems, according to a 2020 review.

A 2016 paper also notes that those with diabetes are 2–3 times more likely to have depression.

Vision loss can be hard to process, given its effect on daily life and independence. People may find it helpful to talk with a mental health professional.

The American Diabetes Association Health Directory is a resource that can help people find a nearby therapist with experience in diabetes care.

Learn more about therapy.

Having a support network is crucial at any time. It is particularly important when a person is living with a chronic condition. In a 2020 study, researchers found that vision loss has links to loneliness and depression.

A 2016 study also found an association between vision loss and depression symptoms. Researchers note that factors such as social network size may play a role in limiting depression symptoms.

People experiencing diabetes-related vision loss may find the following helpful:

  • remaining in contact with friends and family
  • engaging with hobbies as much as possible
  • reaching out to vision loss and diabetes support groups to share experiences

A person can ask their diabetes team about any suitable support groups.

Vision loss from diabetes can occur for several reasons.

Diabetic retinopathy

Over time, elevated blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in the retina, a layer at the back of the eye that picks up light. This is known as diabetic retinopathy.

It may also cause new, fragile blood vessels to form on the retina, which can break, leak, and cause vision-impairing scarring.

Blood vessel leakage can also lead to macular edema, a swelling in the center of the retina that causes blurry vision.

Other diabetic eye problems

Diabetes can also increase the risk of other eye problems, such as:

  • cataracts, which leads to clouding of the lens of the eye
  • glaucoma, which increases pressure in the eye

Anyone living with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy increases with time. People who develop diabetes during pregnancy — known as gestational diabetes — also have a high risk of diabetic retinopathy.

Generally, complications occur less frequently in people with well-managed diabetes. However, the risk of developing vision loss can still steadily increase over time.

The following are some common questions about vision loss and diabetes.

Is vision loss from diabetes permanent?

Treatment for diabetes-related vision loss can repair some eye damage and may restore lost vision. It may also stop vision problems from worsening.

How do you fix diabetic blurred vision?

Treatment options for diabetic vision loss include:

  • Anti-VEGF therapy: A doctor injects anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) into the eye to stop leaky blood vessels.
  • Steroids: These can reduce swelling in the retina that affects vision.
  • Laser therapy: This can help seal leaky blood vessels.
  • Vitrectomy: This surgery removes cloudy vitreous fluid from the eye to restore clearer vision and reduce scarring.

People who develop glaucoma due to diabetes may benefit from surgery, medications, and laser treatment.

Surgery may also help those with cataracts.

Diabetic retinopathy can cause severe vision loss, increasing a person’s risk for loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Treatments for diabetes-related vision loss are available. However, some vision loss may be permanent.

A low vision specialist may be able to help a person navigate a new loss of vision.

People with vision loss due to diabetes may also benefit from looking after their mental health. They may find it useful to talk with a therapist specializing in chronic conditions and lean on friends, family, and others in the vision loss and diabetes communities for support.