Can Diabetes Affect My Vision?
Did you know that diabetes can affect your vision? Diabetes can affect the blood vessels in your eyes and also your glasses prescription. Over 10% of the US population has diabetes and more than 2 in 5 Americans with diabetes have some degree of diabetic damage in their eyes known at diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can occur in individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. This means it is especially important for people with diabetes to have yearly eye exams with their optometrist.
Recently, I had a 65-year-old patient who returned to recheck his glasses prescription. I had seen him two months prior, and he had only a slight change to his prescription. However, now neither his distance nor near vision was clear.
After examining him, I found that he had a large shift in his glasses prescription. It was almost double what it had been two months before. This kind of change is not typical within two months. Upon further discussion, he revealed that he had a recent spike in his blood sugars ten days ago that required him to be hospitalized. Although he had not been previously diagnosed with diabetes, he was now on insulin and was closely monitoring his blood sugars each day. It was in the last week that he noticed this change in his glasses prescription.
These kinds of large shifts in a glasses prescriptions are not uncommon with changes in blood sugar levels. As blood sugar levels fluctuate, they cause the crystalline lens in the eye to change how it focuses light, thus changing the prescription required for clear vision. It is important to have blood work done and a visit with your primary care doctor if this occurs.
Those who have diabetes should have a yearly comprehensive exam with their eye doctor to look for diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina are weakened, which causes them to leak out blood and fluid. If it progresses, it causes the eye to form new leaky blood vessels in the retina. Over time, this can lead to vision loss or blindness, especially if diabetic levels are uncontrolled or the condition has been going on for years.
In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, we need to regularly monitor the eyes with dilated eye exams and retinal photos. Some cases may require surgical treatment.
Yearly dilated eye exams are crucial because diabetic retinopathy is often asymptomatic at first. However, when caught early, vision may be preserved. If retinopathy is seen, it also helps primary care physicians to know how the rest of the body is doing. If bleeding is occurring inside the eye, it is more likely to be occurring in other parts of the body that are not as easily viewed.
The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is by controlling blood sugar levels, regularly following up with a primary care doctor and eye doctor, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We look forward to seeing you for your annual diabetic eye exam!
Dr Erica Whitmire OD
The Optical Centre
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