Diabetes and Blurred Vision
Blurred vision can happen for many different reasons. It could be a result of a medical condition, dry eyes, or simply looking at a computer screen for too long — however, one group of people who are at an especially high risk of blurred vision in diabetics.
In this article, we explore how diabetes can affect your vision and how to protect your eye health if you suffer from this condition.
The Link Between Diabetes and Eye Health
People with diabetes have a higher than average risk of developing eye problems. This is due to the influence of blood sugar on the health of the eyes.
When blood sugar is raised for long periods, it can damage the tiny vessels that supply blood to the retina. The retina is a layer of cells inside the eye that is responsible for detecting light. It helps us to see images sharply and distinguish between different colors.
When the blood vessels that supply the retina are weakened by diabetes, they begin to swell and bleed. Eventually, they can become blocked as scar tissue begins to form. New blood vessels are created to take their place, but these may not work as efficiently. This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy.
Although it can eventually lead to blindness, in its early stages, diabetic retinopathy may not cause any symptoms. However, as it progresses, you may experience:
- Blurred vision
- Poor night vision
- Inability to see colors clearly
- Floaters (dark spots which move across your vision)
- Black spots or holes in the vision
Retinopathy is a common problem for people with diabetes. However, it is not the only possible cause of blurred vision.
People with diabetes may also experience temporary blurred vision if excess fluid leaks into the eye. This causes the lens of the eye to become swollen and change shape. Like the lens of a camera or pair of glasses, the lens of the eye focuses light onto the retina. When it becomes distorted, the lens cannot focus light correctly, leading to blurred vision.
Temporary blurred vision can also be a result of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). In this case, your eyesight should return to normal once your blood sugar has been restored.
Finally, people with diabetes are at a higher than average risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma. It is estimated that the risk of cataracts is raised by 2-5 times, and the risk of glaucoma is doubled if you have diabetes.
What Causes Blurred Vision in Diabetes?
You have an increased risk of developing eye problems, whether you are type 1 or type 2 diabetic. The risk increases further if you have had diabetes for a long time or have poorly controlled blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol.
Other people who may be especially prone to diabetic eye problems include:
- Older people
- Pregnant women
- Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans
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If you have diabetes, you must go for regular eye examinations, even if you don’t have blurred vision or any other symptoms. Your optician can spot eye problems before they become symptomatic, and ensure that you get treatment as soon as possible.
When Blurred Vision Becomes an Emergency
In severe cases of diabetic retinopathy, scar tissue can cause the retina to become detached from the inside of the eye. If left untreated, this could result in blindness and so requires immediate medical attention.
The symptoms of a detached retina include:
- Sudden changes in eyesight
- Flashes of light
- More floaters than usual
- A dark shadow over your vision which is often described as curtain-like
If you experience any of the above symptoms, contact your physician straight away or visit your local emergency room.
How to Reduce Blurred Vision Complications
If you have diabetes, you can reduce blurred vision complications and protect your eyesight by doing the following:
- Keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control
- Take any medication exactly as directed by your doctor
- Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise
- If you smoke, ask your doctor or pharmacist for support while you quit
- See your doctor as soon as any new symptoms occur, or if existing symptoms change
Remember, diabetic retinopathy does not necessarily cause any symptoms in its early stages. Therefore, one of the best ways to prevent complications is to have regular eye check-ups. Make sure that your eye examination includes dilation as this allows your optician to see inside your eye and identify issues before they become severe.
Even if you are not a diagnosed diabetic, regular eye examinations are crucial to keeping your eyes healthy. Many people with diabetes do not know that they have the condition until they experience symptoms such as blurred vision. By this time, their elevated blood sugar may have already begun to damage their eyesight.
Seeing an optician frequently will ensure that any problems are detected early and that you receive the best treatment possible. Ultimately, this could help to save your eyesight and is undoubtedly worth making time for.