Diabetes and Blurry Vision

by Jul 6, 2020

Diabetes is an increasingly common condition and many people are aware of what it is. However, you may not know how damaging it can be to the eyes, and that your optometrist is always looking for its signs when examining the eyes of patients with diabetes. These changes to the eyes can also sometimes be among the first signs that someone has diabetes, if not yet diagnosed by their family physician. 


What is Diabetes? 

Diabetes mellitus can be classified into type 1, type 2, gestational, and other more rare types. These all have in common a higher than normal concentration of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream resulting from a lack of production or effectiveness of the hormone insulin. Excessive glucose in the bloodstream leads to damage in tissues such as the kidneys, limbs, and eyes and contributes to disease in the blood vessels themselves that supply the heart, brain, and rest of the body. Type 1 diabetes mellitus comes on in childhood as the result of autoimmune damage to the cells that produce insulin, while gestational diabetes is reserved for diabetes that comes on during pregnancy and resolves afterwards. Type 2 diabetes constitutes the vast majority of all diabetes and usually manifests in middle age as a result of insulin having a reduced effect on target cells. It has both genetic and lifestyle associations and is rapidly increasing in prevalence in middle aged and older adults while also beginning to affect younger adults. 

How Diabetes Affects Your Vision and Eyes

Diabetes impacts all parts of the eyes. It damages the nerves that produce sensation to the clear front of the eye, the cornea. This stops one from detecting damage while also reducing the healing ability of the cornea. Excess sugar in the fluids that make up the eye predisposes to cataract, or clouding of the natural lens within the eye. Along with this, the elevated sugar in the eyes can cause a shift of the refractive error towards nearsightedness, leading to unstable glasses prescriptions that change rapidly over short periods of time and resulting poor vision. Both of these can be mostly reversed if the blood sugar becomes adequately controlled. The place where the most irreversible damage occurs, and where your eye doctor accordingly checks most thoroughly, is the retina at the back of the eye. Diabetes damages the numerous blood vessels here, causing bleeding, swelling, cell death, and formation of leaky new blood vessels and scar tissue which can lead to retinal detachment. These new blood vessels can also occur in other parts of the eye and lead to glaucoma. Finally, diabetes can cause damage to the nerves that supply the eye muscles, causing eye turns and drooping of the eyelids. 


Diabetics: Preventing Vision Loss

Engaging in an active lifestyle and staying at a healthy weight are some key ways to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Once diagnosed with diabetes, however, a healthy lifestyle is still important, along with regular visits to healthcare providers and tight control over blood sugar levels. All the damage that diabetes causes in the eyes is related to the duration of the disease and the degree of blood sugar control. While some changes to the eyes are almost certain after many years with the disease, the amount of damage can be kept to a minimal level with diligent control and healthy lifestyle, along with, of course, any medications that have been prescribed. If your eye doctor observes diabetic damage in the eyes, they will inform your family physician and/or endocrinologist of these changes so that they can modify your management plan accordingly. If new vessel formation is found in your eyes, injections or surgery may be necessary in order to stop any complications from occurring. 

Our eye doctors at EyeDocs Family Eye Care in Brookville, OH excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye disese. Call our optometrists at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to be evaluated for vision changes from diabetes. Our eye doctors, Dr. Kyle Maxam and Dr. Cara Wampler, provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Brookville, Ohio.

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