How diabetes can damage your vision
While its impact on blood sugar is perhaps what most of us consider first when it comes to diabetes, it isn’t the only part of the body heavily affected by it. Diabetes can cause long-term, ongoing damage to multiple systems within your body, including your vision. Charles Woody, OD, offered answers on how diabetes can damage your vision and what other effects it can have on the health of your eyes.
Some basics on blood vessels in the eye
“One of the main reasons that eyes are dilated during annual vision exams or in the event of certain concerns is to get a really good look at your blood vessels,” said Dr. Woody. “The eye is the only place in the body where we can see them so clearly.” If we detect damaged blood vessels in your eye, we will have a greater concern that the blood vessels in other parts of your body, such as your kidneys, are also damaged.
Blood vessels within the eye that show signs of weakness or high levels of pressure within the eye can be a sign for your optometrist that something isn’t right. Weakened blood vessels or those with bulges may burst and leak into the fluid of the eye around them. People with diabetes need to work on improving blood sugar control to prevent these changes from getting worse. If changes continue to worsen due to uncontrolled blood sugar, diabetic retinopathy can cause worsening vision and even blindness.
However, damaged blood vessels don’t necessarily mean you’re going blind. With treatment and blood sugar control, it is possible to preserve your vision.
How changes in blood sugar can make your vision blurry
“When your blood sugar fluctuates, it can cause ongoing changes in the shape of the lens within your eye,” said Dr. Woody. “This can drastically affect your ability to focus resulting in everything appearing blurry. Glasses that worked yesterday, when your blood sugar was 120, might be functionally useless when your sugar is 300.”
High levels of blood sugar can also cause cataracts to develop at a much younger age, leading to progressive loss of vision and the possible need for surgery to correct it.
To save your vision, control your blood sugar
“The message I want my patients with diabetes to take away is how important it is to control your blood sugar to protect your overall health as well as to protect your eyesight,” said Dr. Woody.
All the members of your health care team will work with you on specific blood sugar targets to aim for and help you to track your blood sugar level over multiple months. You’ll likely be asked to test your A1c, or average blood sugar level, and this will help you to have an idea of the potential for long-term damage.
Prevention is the best treatment
To help keep your vision healthy throughout life, make sure you’re scheduling your annual eye examination to track any potential negative changes, and keep seeing your regular doctor and following their advice to help control your blood sugar.
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