Diabetes Forecast

Don’t Cry: Dry Eyes Linked to Nerve Disease in People With Type 2 Diabetes

What to Know

More than half of all people with diabetes have chronically dry eyes, called dry eye syndrome, which can cause many uncomfortable symptoms, including a dry, scratchy, or filmy feeling in the eyes; burning, itching, and redness; blurred vision; and sensitivity to light. Nerve disease (neuropathy) is a common complication of diabetes and can damage the many nerves found in the cornea (the clear layer that forms the front of the eye). This damage could hinder a person’s ability to make tears and slow down blinking, causing tears to evaporate. Researchers wanted to know if nerve damage could put people at higher risk for dry eye syndrome.

The Study

A total of 99 people participated in the study; 61 had type 2 diabetes. Participants did not use contact lenses, eye drops, or medicines that can cause eye dryness, and none of them had had eye surgery. The researchers tested all the participants for symptoms of nerve disease and dry eye syndrome. They also measured problems with tears and the sensitivity of cornea nerves. They then compared the results between participants with and without diabetes.

The Results

About one-third of the participants were found to have nerve disease, and they were much more likely to have dry eye syndrome than those without nerve disease. Participants with both nerve disease and diabetes were the most likely to have dry eye syndrome and had more problems with tears and less-sensitive cornea nerves than all the other participants.


Dry eyes are especially common in people with both type 2 diabetes and nerve disease, particularly in those whose cornea nerves already have been damaged. If you have type 2 diabetes and dry eyes, it may be wise to talk to your doctor about the possibility of diabetic nerve disease because early and ongoing treatment can prevent further nerve damage. This was a small study, and it only included people with type 2 diabetes. The results may not apply to those with type 1 diabetes. Also, more thorough eye exams may have revealed other factors that can contribute to dry eye.

Dry eye syndrome in subjects with diabetes and association with neuropathy, by Achtsidis and colleagues. Diabetes Care 2014;37:e210–e211 https://doi.org/10.2337/dc14-0860

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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