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Diabetes and Eye Health | Long Island Eye Doctor

Joel Kestenbaum, OD

One of the first lessons I learned in optometry school was that diabetes was a leading cause of  blindness.  We were taught that early diagnosis was the key to preserving good eyesight.  We were also taught that educating our patients about the effects of diabetes on the eye was extremely important.  So here are a few tidbits to think about.

There are many early signs of diabetes, many of which are common eye complaints.   Styes, double vision, light sensitivity, fluctuating vision, glare and frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions are just a few early signs.  These and other signs can also affect people who have had diabetes for a long time.  Getting a periodic eye examination by a qualified specialist can detect problems that may be vision threatening.  Early detection can lead to early sight saving treatment.

(picture shows an example of diabetic retinopathy)

Having diabetes does not mean that your sight will be affected, but there is a greater risk.

Controlling blood sugar via diet, medication or both is extremely important in minimizing the affects of diabetes.  Exercise, weight loss, lowering cholesterol and not smoking are all ways to help control all the effects of diabetes.

Recently I had a patient who did not control her diabetes.  She was a smoker, stopped seeing her doctor three years ago, did not eat well or exercise, stopped taking her insulin two years prior, and for the last 6 months, has been experiencing some of the eye signs mentioned earlier.  A comprehensive eye examination revealed retinal bleeding and leakage of fluid.  This is typical of diabetic retinopathy, requiring treatment by a retinal specialist in an attempt to save her precious eyesight.

Do yourself and your family a favor.  Take your children, your spouse and your elderly parents for an eye examination.  Early detection can lead to early treatment.  Be smart even if you do not have diabetes. Have annual eye examinations.

Dr. Joel Kestenbaum


  1. This is a great article Dr. Kestenbaum and it packs a powerful punch. We were just learning in school about neovascularization on the retina and how the eye releases VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) to lay down new blood vessels to replace the leaky ones. The only problem is that the new blood vessels are equally as leaky, so the problem never fixes itself!

    Patients must go see Doctors like you Dr. Kestenbaum.

    Great article!!!

  2. Fran Taylor

    I experienced some sort of double vision and light sensitivity before. I didn’t have the slightest idea why I’m experiencing those at that time until I went to an eye doctor to have a consultation and found out that they were signs of diabetes. I was advised to watch my diet which made me go on a vegan/straight edge-type of lifestyle lowering my cholesterol and cutting off my smoking habit. It was not easy for me to adjust to a different lifestyle at the start, though, but the fact that the early signs of the diabetes were treated is rewarding.

    Thanks Dr. Kestenbaum for the links you’ve dropped here. I found it helpful. And I also stumbled upon this website of optometrist Indianapolis IN, that readers might find helpful as well.

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