All About Cataracts in People with Diabetes


Cataracts is likely a term you’ve heard to describe an eye condition in older people, but as someone with diabetes you have a much higher risk of developing them at an earlier age.

Like most diabetes eye complications, you can reduce your risk of developing cataracts by managing healthy blood sugar levels and an A1c at or below 7.0 percent.

What are cataracts?

A cataract is a cloudiness in the lens of your eye. Healthy lenses in your eyes bend light-rays to help you see clearly. Like wearing smudged or foggy sunglasses, cataracts block your vision, making it very difficult to see.

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts are common in older people because the lenses in your eyes become less flexible, less transparent and thicker as you age.

For people with diabetes, chronically high blood sugar levels can affect the wellbeing of your lenses just as they affect many other aspects of the eye, accelerating the natural effects of aging.

Factors that increase your risk of developing cataracts includes:

  • length of time you’ve lived with diabetes
  • chronically high blood sugar levels
  • macular edema
  • smoking cigarettes
  • family history
  • eye injuries
  • eye surgeries
  • eye injections or eye steroids
  • excessive sun exposure without UV sunglasses

Symptoms of cataracts

If you notice any of these symptoms in your vision, contact your optometrist:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Seeing double in one eye
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Being extra sensitive to light and glare
  • Having trouble seeing well at night
  • Bright colors seem faded

Treatment for cataracts

The severity of your cataracts determines how much it affects your ability to see and manage everyday life.

Tips for managing day-to-day life with cataracts:

  • Use bright lighting whenever possible
  • Wear anti-glare prescription glasses
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection
  • Use magnifying lenses for reading and small details
  • Ensure your eyeglass prescription is updated regularly

Cataract surgery

Surgery can replace the cloudy lens with an artificial version that becomes a permanent part of your eye.

In a short out-patient visit, your ophthalmologist will numb your entire eye with drops or an injection. While you will be awake during the surgery, you will not feel the actual removal of the original lens or the placement of the artificial lens.

While it is a painless procedure, you should anticipate a few hours of recovery time after the procedure.

Recovering after cataract surgery:

  • Using eye drops frequently as your eyes heal
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes
  • Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes
  • Being patient for a few weeks as your eyes adapt to the new lens

Eye Health content is created through the ADA x BT1 Collab, with support from Focus on Diabetes™.

WRITTEN BY Ginger Vieira, POSTED 05/20/21, UPDATED 12/02/22

Ginger Vieira is an author and writer living with type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism. She’s authored a variety of books, including “When I Go Low” (for kids), “Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes,” and “Dealing with Diabetes Burnout.” Before joining Beyond Type 1 as digital content manager, Ginger wrote for Diabetes Mine, Healthline, T1D Exchange, Diabetes Strong and more! In her free time, she is jumping rope, scootering with her daughters, or walking with her handsome fella and their dog.