Diabetes is a complex disease in which your body cannot produce enough insulin, or cannot utilize it effectively. When we do not have efficient use of insulin, our blood sugar cannot be broken down and used by our cells for energy, causing high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar damages the delicate inner lining of your blood vessels over time, making them prone to leak blood, plasma, or both. This leakage can affect every part of your body, including your eyes.
Blurry vision can be one of the first “early warning” indicators for diabetes. If fluid leaks into the lens of the eye, it can cause the lens to swell, making it difficult to focus and can even cause someone’s glasses prescription to change.
If the fluid or blood leaks into the macula, the sensitive “camera-film” tissue in the back of the eye, it can cause swelling, known as macular edema, that can also cause vision to become blurry. Extreme cases of macular edema can cause distorted vision, where straight lines appear wavy, or changes in color vision. If lots of blood leaks into the macula, vision can appear foggy or can be completely lost. (Bleeding in the macula is the reason that diabetes is the number one cause of blindness in the U.S.)
In addition to diabetes, there are other eye conditions that can cause blurry vision. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism that is not corrected by glasses can cause blur, and can easily be corrected with a new glasses prescription. Other medical causes of blur can include dry eyes, certain medications, high or low blood pressure, damage to the skin of the front of the eye, eye infection or inflammation, cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. During an eye exam, your eye doctor will perform a “health check” of the front and back of the eyes to find and treat any causes of blurry vision.
If you have diabetes, your risk of other eye conditions, such as glaucoma, cataracts, or even dry eye, increases significantly. It is important to have regular comprehensive eye exams that include dilation, so your eye doctor can fully evaluate your eyes for any signs of damage from diabetes. If damage is present, the sooner that damage is treated, the less likely that you will experience lasting vision loss. In addition, if your eye doctor finds any diabetic damage in your eye, we know other organs in your body, such as your heart, liver, lungs, etc., are also being damaged by diabetes in the same way. Your eye doctor should offer to provide a “Diabetic Eye Exam Report” to the doctor who is managing a mutual patients’ diabetes to make sure that the managing doctor is aware of any potential organ damage. Be sure to tell your doctor your symptoms, complete medical history, as well as any medications you take.
(This article was published by Spokane + Coeur d’Alene Living Magazine in April 2018, click here to see the original article)