How Diabetes Can Affect Your Eyesight

ViteyesEye Health, Nutrition

What is the correlation between diabetes and vision?

Our eyes are extremely sensitive to changes in our health. Ailments in our bodies can lead to eye inflammation or even blindness, if we do not pay attention. One of the most prevalent issues to affect eye health is diabetes, estimated to afflict over 30 million U.S. adults. An additional 84 million Americans have prediabetes. And that means eye health is at risk in the U.S. population.

Who is at risk for sight problems in conjunction with a diabetes diagnosis?

All diabetics can experience sight issues due to their body’s inability to regulate glucose. When pregnant, women can develop retinopathy more readily or a current retinopathy can worsen. According to preventblindness.org, nearly all people with type 1 diabetes and more than 60% of people with type 2 diabetes have retinopathy in the first 20 years of living with it. Diabetic eye problems may also be further complicated when combined with high blood pressure, heart maladies, kidney disorders, stroke or obesity.

What are some problems that can arise in sight due to diabetes?

Cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and diabetic macular edema can develop due to insulin problems caused by diabetes. Diabetics can experience blurry or hazy vision, see double, or see spots because of sugar fluctuations in their bloodstream. Eye pain, shadows, and floaters can also be warning signs of undiagnosed diabetic conditions.

  • Diabetic Retinopathy – Diabetic retinopathy is eye damage that results from high blood sugar levels. As the blood sugar levels rise, deposits of fatty material (exudate) form in the retina and cause macular damage (maculopathy). Eye cells lack oxygen, disengage from blood flow, and form new blood vessels to compensate. Blood vessels can be blocked, swell, distort, and bleed out. Finally, the retina may detach due to attached scar tissue contraction. This can cause permanent blindness.

Most common cause of vision loss in diabetics occurs due to diabetic retinopathy. Between 12,000 and 24,000 new cases of blindness from diabetic retinopathy occur in the United States each year, according to the CDC.

  • Diabetic Macular Edema – Swelling of macula results in loss of sight of fine detail, challenges with focus, trouble seeing faraway objects and colorblindness.
  • Glaucoma – An increase in eye pressure, caused by extraneous fluid leakage, which damages blood vessels carrying blood to the retina and optic nerve. Neovascular glaucoma occurs when blood vessels grow on the iris.
  • Cataracts – Cataracts occur as the eye lens gets cloudy, obstructing proper vision and focus. Symptoms can include double-vision, light sensitivity, decreased night vision/color dulling.

What are some other diabetes complications that affect my sight?

  • An increased susceptibility to eye infections
  • Longer healing times
  • Increased hospital stays due to infection
  • Eye movement hindrance or paralysis due to nerve damage

How can I protect my vision as a diabetic?

  • Control your blood sugar.
  • See your ophthalmologist annually for an exam and get your eyes dilated.
  • Check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Exercise. Maintain a healthy weight.
  • See your doctor regularly for A1C readings to track your 3-month glucose average.

Remember, your health will be improved as you learn to maintain and keep your glucose levels in check. Maintaining a balance in blood sugars stabilizes not just your digestive and immune health, it promotes your eye health.

If your sight is changing, contact a professional immediately.