No Signs of Diabetic Retinopathy

“Patient is a healthy 36-year-old male with Type 1 diabetes. At this time, patient shows no signs of diabetic retinopathy.”


Those are good words to hear. And those words, more or less, are what I’ve heard near the conclusion of my annual visits to the ophthalmologist, at that point in the examination when the doctor dictates into his recorder for his transcriptionist. Maybe it doesn’t work this way in your eye-doctor world, but in mine, the doctor takes care of all of his business concerning me before either of us leaves the room and we go our separate ways.

-- Keep an eye on your vision! Learn about preventive steps and treatments for diabetic retinopathy from retinal specialist Dr. Charles Wykoff. >>

Yet would you believe me if I told you that I wish they’d find something wrong with my eyes? Honestly. Yes, I wish they could find something wrong with my eyes. It doesn’t need to be diabetes-related, and it wouldn’t have to be one of those awful, nonreversible eye conditions.

But something? Please? These doctors of mine, in all of their eye specialties and experience, are some of the best in the country, and they can’t find anything wrong! And I’d like to know whatever it is that’s going on with my eyes. At night. When I drive.

I’m a healthy 36-year-old male who feels like an unhealthy 70-year-old male when I drive at night. I get this streaking effect from any light source in my field of vision — streetlights, business lights, oncoming car lights, brake lights…any light source — that makes night driving an exhausting, unpleasant experience. It’s been ongoing for almost two years now, and because I don’t have much cause to drive at night, it’s an annoyance but not debilitating, and, honestly, something I don’t think about until it’s 10 PM, and we’ve been visiting friends, and it’s time to go home, and I have thirty minutes to spend on the road trying, to no avail, to rub my eyes to clear things up; to continually widen my eyes to see if that helps; to pull over and put in some eye drops to see if that won’t help the problem.

When I saw my ophthalmologist in February, he told me that there wasn’t anything wrong. When we discussed my night-vision problem, he speculated that it may be dryness, and that because I was seeing him at 10 in the morning, he would recommend some eye drops.

After the drops didn’t work, I called back and asked the clinic if I should see someone else, or if I should revisit my ophthalmologist, but that this wasn’t right; I shouldn’t be living like this. The doctor recommended another doctor in the eye center’s cornea clinic. Last Friday I spent three hours in the cornea clinic, my eyes being put through a battery of tests that left me with a headache and eye strain.

And the verdict? There isn’t anything wrong.

Yes, it’s true. And no, dear readers, it’s not psychosomatic: I’m not trying for some bizarre reason to avoid driving at night. And I’m not creating maladies where none exist (believe me, I have enough real health issues).

So what is it?

The specialist I met with last Friday told me that she doesn’t doubt there’s something wrong, but that there are so many unknowns with eyes that they can’t pinpoint it. She suspects that my pupils may be overdilating at night. Not in any large amount, nothing really measurable, but just enough to let in more light than is needed, thus causing the streaks when the light refracts off of my lenses.

Everything in our eyes is so sensitive that any little thing can cause them to malfunction, however slightly. We spoke about what might have caused this, but in short, it’s not possible to know.

The conclusion? She prescribed some drops that are actually for sufferers of glaucoma (the prescription will be filled today or tomorrow, so I don’t yet know if they’ll work). Not because I have glaucoma. No! It’s because one of the side effects of using these drops is that they cause the pupils to constrict after about thirty minutes. So I’m to try these drops about thirty minutes prior to night driving and see if that helps. If not, I do have a follow-up with the cornea specialist in mid-June.

Have I mentioned this before? Yes, I have: It’s always something!

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  • Eye expert

    It is highly likely that you have some issues with early cataracts that are filtering out some of the light and increasing your “night blindness.” Diabetes causes early cataract formation.
    Also, everyone has poorer vision at night due to the optics of the eye. When your pupil dilates to let in light, your depth of focus decreases, just like a camera aperture (
    One thing I would consider: go to an optometrist in the area for a refraction and discuss your night vision issues. Ophthalmologists, while trained wonderfully in eye disease management and treatment, often do not receive the background training in optics, glasses, and refractions. I often over-minus my patients with night vision issues and put an anti-reflection coating on the lenses….problem is often solved. Hope this helps. Good luck.

  • Helen Clement

    Do you get this effect when you are outside at night but not driving? For example, while standing in the parking lot looking at streetlights and headlights? What I am wondering is whether what you are experiencing could be an interaction between your vision and the car’s windshield, or even simply the windshield itself. Also, have you tried using polarized or tinted or reading glasses? (The idea I am pursuing there is to change the quality of light reaching your eyes.) I am actually kind of surprised that your doctor has not prescribed glasses that would correct what appears to be your photosensitivity. At my last optometrist appointment I was offered the option of having glasses that counteracted glare while driving, so apparently they exist. Maybe you could consult an optometrist in addition to your ophthalmologist, as you may be given a different range of options. I hope you are able to find a solution soon.

  • Nicky (Type 2)

    Try the yellow-tinted driving glasses. Cautiously. It cuts down vision too much for some people – but it’s transformed my night-driving experience.

  • Shannon

    I feel the same way! I’m a newly diagnosed type 1 who only found out I had diabetes because I went to see my doctor about my sudden onset of near blindness! Upon beginning insulin therapy, my eyes recovered a lot, but when my blood sugar is high or I’m overtired, under stress, I can’t see again! To which my eye doctor says (and I know he’s right), there’s nothing we can do except get a better control over your blood sugar. In the meantime, I just have periods of terrible I-shouldn’t-get-behind-a-wheel-and-drive vision.

    I also wish he’d just find something wrong that has a “quick fix”, so I know how you feel!

  • Joye

    My eyes have always been very sensitive to light. I have had to quit driving a sedan because the headlights of large vehicles were high enough to blind me; I now drive a small SUV that gets my eyes just above most of the oncoming headlights. Before I was able to change vehicles, I used dark glasses that were just smoky, not real dark, and that helped a lot. I have also tried the amber “night driving” glasses, and they helped a little, but not quite enough.
    GOOD LUCK! I know how frustrating, and dangerous, this situation can be!

  • Sara

    Hi, Interesting story. Last year I had light streaking in the corners of my eyes at night. It drove me crazy and after a trip to a really good eye doctor, I found out I had dettached retinas in both eyes. The cause? STRESS!!! After starting to excersize to relieve the stress along with relaxation training, somehow, my retinas reattached themselves. My eyes are fine now, but any stress brings back vision symptons. It’s not easy. Good luck.

  • Susan Warren

    I have the exact same sx. – and have had for years- and I do not have diabetes. I am a CDE. I have discussed this with ophthalmologist for many years in many different states as I have moved – all with same dismal results as yours. I too have tried all variety of drops to no avail. Let us know your results with the glaucoma drops.

  • mary little

    mine was caused by cataracts seemingly not visible 6 months eearlier (where did those come from both eyes in that little time??) replacement surgery madethat proablem better except at night still i don’t get caught out after dark no way no how mary

  • Elaina

    I wonder if your streaking is the same thing as what I see at night. I see rays comming out of lights. The headlight/light is the center and I can see the rays shooting out of it. Doesn’t blind me but it is really annoying. I have been to an optometrist and ophthalmologist both say the same thing, nothing is wrong with my vision and/or eyes, except for near sight/far sight issues. I first became aware of it in my mid-20’s. I did not get diagnosed with diabetes until I was 51. So, I don’t know if it is related to my diabetes or not. I have just learned to live with it.

  • Orlando Tom

    I had gone every six months to my ophthalmologist for years,only to discover I had advanced retinopathy when suddenly previously horizontal lines (like louvers on windows)became wavy. While miracle treatments are recently available,as reported in Diabetic Management, there still are unpleasant consequences of diabetic retinopathy. Tomorrow I receive my monthly injection into my eye of this miraculous treatment, which has significantly improved my remaining vision (20/400 to 20/80 in one eye, unfortunately non-correctable with lenses). And while I have been receiving similar injections for years now, I would prefer that you not have to experience what I routinely endure. Controlling one’s blood glucose levels is far preferable to dealing with the consequences of denial or habits which are difficult to change.

  • Cfishel

    For many years, I suffered with the same night driving conditions. I discovered that if I quit drinking wine or beer (distilled alcohol is OK), all of the “night-blindness” problems disappeared in about three weeks. Minimizing bread and cheese also helped.

  • Josh

    I am a T1 Diabetic ( age 37 and had it for 32 years) and have retinopathy ( NPDR) but one of the earliest symptoms was sensitivity to lights while driving at night. Even with no clinical manifestations of retinopathy , the eyes ability to adapt at night is diminished by lack of blood flow and sometimes I found lights at night to be bothersome, especially from headlights.

    Just my two cents. Good luck.

  • Steve

    amen, i’m an adult onset type 1, i’ve had this as well as others described in comments below. Glad to know that it’s not an immediate concern lol – but it is definitely weird, that’s for sure.