Diabetes is a common disease which occurs when the body does not process food properly to use as energy and this condition can also impact a person’s eyesight and overall health of the eyes.

Diabetes in Olympia


Diabetes is a long term disease which occurs when there’s an issue with the way your body processes blood sugar, a crucial energy source otherwise known as glucose. Food that we eat is generally broken down into glucose which then travels through the bloodstream. When the blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas is activated and is supposed to release insulin which is an essential hormone that converts the sugar into energy for your cells. In diabetes, this process is impaired which can cause damage to various parts of the body, including the eyes. Diabetes can lead to a diverse number of eye problems such as cataracts, blurry vision, glaucoma and even diabetic retinopathy. 

There is currently no cure for diabetes, however there are incredible treatments available to help control your blood sugar levels and insulin which can truly be instrumental in preventing various harmful complications to your eyes and other organs. If you think you or a loved one may have diabetes please book an appointment with your healthcare provider so that the proper measures can be taken to maintain your health. 

We will be happy to schedule an appointment for you with our eye doctor who will monitor your eye health. It is recommended for diabetics to get annual eye exams unless your eye doctor recommends the visits to be even more frequent. If you think you have diabetes or have already been diagnosed with the condition and you experience any sudden vision changes, you must see an eye doctor immediately so that you can preserve your vision and the health of your eyes.

American Family Vision Clinic

Types of Diabetes

There are different kinds of diabetes, but the two main categories are known as type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1: This is an autoimmune disease most commonly found in children or adolescents and is around 5-10% of diabetic cases. In type 1, the pancreas either has very little or no insulin at all, and therefore an outside source of insulin is required with daily injections.

Type 2: This accounts for approximately 90% of cases of diabetes and it occurs when the body does not produce or use insulin properly. It is more commonly found in adults above age 40 and occurs as a result of lifestyle and genetic factors. It is associated with inactive lifestyles and obesity.

There are two other kinds of diabetes which can be reversible. One is known as prediabetes which means that there’s a risk of becoming diabetic because your blood sugar levels are high, but not excessive enough to be considered diabetes. There is also a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy which is called gestational diabetes and it can go away once the baby is delivered. Women who are diabetic and become pregnant are at risk of experiencing more severe harm to their eyes and so they are usually monitored by an eye doctor more frequently in order to prevent serious damage.

All types of diabetes can affect your eyes so if you are at risk for any type of this condition or if you’ve been diagnosed with this disease, please book an appointment with your eye doctor who will guide you.


Diabetic symptoms usually depend on how high your glucose levels are. Type 2 and prediabetes could occur without symptoms and therefore it’s important to be monitored by healthcare professionals to find out if these conditions pertain to you without you being previously aware. In type 1 diabetes, the onset of symptoms is sudden and often drastic. Common symptoms of the different types of diabetes include:

  • Excess thirst and hunger
  • Constant need to urinate
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tired and irritated feelings
  • Blurry vision
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Frequent infections

If you notice these symptoms or experience changes in your vision and find it difficult for you to perform your daily activities, please schedule a comprehensive eye exam with our eye doctor in Olympia besides meeting your healthcare provider.


How Diabetes Affects the Eyes

Diabetes is often held responsible for damaging the blood vessels at the back of the eye. This eye condition is known as diabetic retinopathy which is the prominent reason for loss of vision in diabetic patients. When the blood vessels of the eye are exposed to high sugar levels for a long period of time, they tend to develop this condition and cause a weakening of the walls of the blood vessels. The chances of developing diabetic retinopathy increase if the person has had diabetes for a long time and if the blood sugar levels are unstable. 

If the diabetic eye problem is identified in time, it won’t cause blindness. With prompt treatment options, the vision loss can be prevented and even reversed in some cases. Consistent monitoring from your eye doctor can assist in the management of the impact of high sugar levels on the blood vessels in your eyes. Additionally, keeping the blood sugar levels under control is extremely important.

Common Questions

It is recommended by the American Diabetes Association to be tested for diabetes for people who are: Age 45 or older Overweight at any age, with one or more relevant risk factors for developing diabetes. These include if you have prediabetes, a family background of diabetes and/ or an inactive lifestyle. If you or your child experience various symptoms including any of the following characteristic diabetic symptoms such as the frequent need to urinate, extreme thirstiness or hunger, and/ or unexplained weight loss then please schedule an appointment with your doctor to be checked for diabetes. Your doctor might recommend diabetic screening every few years after turning 45 years old. Early diagnosis can prevent complications to various systems in your body and therefore it’s essential to go get checked if you have any suspicions of developing this condition. In addition to scheduling an appointment with your general physician, it is very important to be checked by your eye doctor for any diabetic damage to your eyes. Your eye doctor can guide you to maintain healthy eyesight.
In most cases, diabetic eye disease develops over a period of five to ten years. But that doesn't mean that you're safe before then. Diabetes can cause severe sight loss or even blindness at any stage of the disease if blood sugar is not managed properly. Two of the most common conditions that can result from diabetes are diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. It is extremely important to schedule a diabetic eye exam according to the recommendation of your eye doctor, which is usually at least twice per year. Furthermore when scheduling a diabetic eye exam make sure the eye doctor has technology such as an OCT that can take high definition images of the eye and enable your eye doctor to have a way of identifying minor changes that are indicative of early stages of cellular stress. In some cases your eye doctor may schedule you for additional tests such as visual fields and ERG testing. Call our office located in Olympia at (360) 491-2121.
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


A patient who is diagnosed with diabetes is expected to go to the eye doctor for a special diabetic eye exam at least annually, depending on what the eye doctor recommends for you. This enables early detection of the possibility of diabetic retinopathy and it’s various complications. This can prevent you from losing your eyesight and also assists in preserving the eye health of the patient. You can schedule an eye exam with our eye doctor by calling (360) 491-2121.  Patients who need diabetic eye exams visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical eye care services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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