Are you a diabetic who is concerned about how diabetes is affecting your eyes? You are right to be worried! When it comes to diabetes, eye problems are quite common, and they can increase in severity throughout the course of the disease. Many patients with diabetes may not make the connection between diabetes and their eyes when they notice their vision deteriorating — older adults in particular. After all, it is common for our vision to go through changes as we age, diabetic or otherwise.
However, even younger adults may not make the connection between diabetes and eyesight, especially if they already wore glasses before receiving a diagnosis. They simply assume it is a further escalation of a preexisting problem. If you are diabetic, and you wear glasses, suffer from watery eyes, or experience blurry vision in the morning, diabetes may be the source.
This helpful list can give you insight into diabetic eye problems so you can decide if it is time to pay a visit to your optometrist. But first, let’s take a quick look at how and why diabetes affects the eyes.
How Does Diabetes Affect the Eyes?
When a person has diabetes, their bodies struggle with a lack of insulin. Insulin is incredibly important because it helps your body distribute blood sugar all over your body. If your body cannot properly distribute blood sugar (also referred to as glucose) it hangs out in your bloodstream and starts causing damage to your body. An excess of glucose harms your nerves (which is why neuropathy is a common issue) and your blood vessels — like the ones that power and nourish your eyes. When the damage becomes severe patients may experience:
- Diabetic Retinopathy: The blood vessels in the retina weaken and die. Watery eyes, blurred vision and vision loss may occur. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
- Glaucoma: As the blood vessels in your retina die, they can also become replaced with abnormal vessels that begin to invade the iris and cause eye pressure and vision issues.
- Cataracts: The characteristic milky “film” that coats the eye is caused by too much sugar in the blood and clouds the eye.
- Macular edema: Damaged blood vessels leak into the retina and cause it to swell, impacting vision.
Signs of Losing Eyesight from Diabetes
These are some genuinely concerning diabetic eye problems, and it is important to know the signs so you can begin treatment. Some damage can be halted or reversed if caught early enough. Here are some signs you are in danger of losing eyesight from diabetes:
- Blurred vision
- Watery eyes
- Spots in vision, unusual “floaters” that cross your view
- Missing spots in your visual field of view
- A film covering the eye
- Partial or complete vision loss
- Sudden color blindness
- Light sensitivity
- Sore or strained eyes — eyes that feel tired or achy
- Abnormal findings during your annual vision exam
How to Treat Eye Problems with Diabetes
The first step in treating deteriorating eyesight with diabetes is to see your optometrist regularly. There are some diabetic vision issues that may be undetectable until a sudden loss of vision. Neither you, nor your primary care doctor can detect malformations or deterioration simply by looking at the eye during a regular exam.
A thorough vision exam requires specialized tools that can examine each eye in its entirety, including internal structures. An optometrist uses a specialized camera to examine the back of your eyes after dilation. Even if you have perfect vision right now, if you also have diabetes, you should have a primary optometrist to help you monitor your vision.
If your optometrist discovers signs that diabetes is affecting your eyes, they will help you correct the issues they can, such as providing an eyeglass or contact prescription or other strategic care. The next step will be a visit to your primary care physician. Fortunately, many of these issues can be corrected with an adjustment to lifestyle (watch your cholesterol, exercise more, don’t smoke, wear sunglasses). Many times, a patient will find that it is an issue with controlling blood sugar through diet or insulin. Your doctor will coordinate a treatment plan with you based on your individual health.
Don’t Delay Your Next Eye Exam. Get Checked Today!
Timing is critical when treating diabetic eye issues. If you have diabetes, get your eyes checked as soon as possible, even if you have not noticed any symptoms. You could give yourself the best head start ever in managing diabetes and vision issues. Our team understands how diabetes affects the eye and we want to help you keep your vision healthy and strong. Schedule your eye exam today.