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How Diabetes Affects Cataract Development

How Diabetes Affects Cataract Development

Diabetes can be a debilitating disease for the millions of people it impacts every single day. The impact and symptoms of diabetes can unfortunately also affect the eyes and vision of diabetics in a negative way. One concern here is the development of cataracts, which are cloudy areas that form in the lens of the cornea and lead to blurry vision.

Sadly, people with diabetes can be two times more likely to develop cataracts than those without the disease. This increased risk affects millions of people around the United States or approximately 9.4% of the entire population. Thankfully, there are ways to treat cataracts and even prevent them from developing in the first place. 

How Diabetes Increases Cataract Risk

Within a diabetic person’s body, a build-up of insulin can occur due to an inability to process this element properly. As insulin rises in the bloodstream, high blood sugar levels form and start to cause problems throughout the body. This includes damage to the blood vessels and eyes in the form of diabetic eye disease, which can include cataracts. 

High blood sugar leads to swelling in the liquid that resides between the cornea lens and eyeball. This swelling can also happen in the lens of the eye and lead to blurry vision. Like most complications that come with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels properly can help reduce the likelihood of this happening. 

Risk Factors for Cataracts Among Diabetics

As people with diabetes get older, their risk of developing cataracts increases. This risk can also arise when a person has diabetes for a long period of time or when someone has a reduction in their metabolic control. Approximately 32% of diabetics over the age of 45 also have cataracts, and diabetics over 65 years old are twice as likely to develop them. 

Other factors that can increase the risk of cataracts include having a family history of cataracts and smoking cigarettes. 

Recognizing Cataract Symptoms

Since cataract symptoms can be very light in the beginning many people are surprised to get diagnosed with this problem. Cataracts tend to develop slowly over time and many people actually show no symptoms early on. Some of the common signs and symptoms of cataracts include the following:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Yellowing vision
  • Less intense colors
  • Halos around lights
  • Changes in eyewear prescriptions
  • Sensitivity to glare from lights
  • Difficulty driving at night due to light brightness 

How to Prevent Cataract Development in Diabetics

Although there’s no sure-fire way to prevent cataracts from forming, there are things that diabetic individuals can do to reduce their risk levels. Keeping control of blood glucose levels is one of the most important ways to do so, and this can lead to the prevention of many other unwanted symptoms that come with having diabetes. Other great ways to reduce cataract risk include:

  • Quitting cigarette smoking
  • Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels healthy
  • Staying active on a regular basis 
  • Consistently eating nutrient-rich and diabetic-friendly foods 
  • Visiting your eye doctor on a regular basis for check-ups

How to Get Treatment for Cataracts

In order to completely treat the development of cataracts, surgery will be necessary. If someone has a less severe form of cataracts, they can try to take less drastic measures such as updating their eyeglass prescription, getting anti-glare coating for their glasses, and using brighter lights for things that require intense focus. 

If cataracts are really getting in the way of daily activities, eye doctors will suggest surgery to have them removed. Cataract surgery is not very time-consuming and it serves to remove cloudy lenses that have formed over the eyes. 

During surgery, doctors will replace this cloudy lens with a clear artificial lens that helps the eye to focus properly. Thankfully, over 90% of people see better after having cataract surgery.


As you can see, diabetics with high blood sugar levels need to be aware of their elevated risk of cataract formation. By managing their blood glucose level and making other healthy lifestyle choices, diabetics can reduce their risk of developing cataracts. It is also very important for diabetics to regularly visit their eye doctor in order to catch any early signs of symptoms of cataract formation or eye damage.