Diabetes can affect the eyes in many ways and if uncontrolled or treated, can even cause severe loss of vision and even blindness. This blog details the effects of diabetes on the eyes, what can be done to prevent vision loss and new technologies and treatment available.
If diabetes is left unmanaged for a long period of time, the high blood sugar levels in your system can actually damage small blood vessels within the eye’s retina over time which can lead to blurred vision and will progress over time to cause severe vision loss. This condition is called ‘Diabetic Retinopathy’ and is not reversible or curable making the prevention of the condition absolutely critical. Complications can also develop which include swelling of the retina, known as ‘Diabetic macular edema’ and even glaucoma.
Short-term blurriness however, in people with diabetes is caused by fluid shifting in and out of the eye because of high blood sugar levels. This fluid causes the lens of the eye to swell, resulting in short-term blurred vision. Once blood sugar levels are controlled and lowered, vision will return to normal. Short term blurriness can also occur if blood sugar levels are too low as hypoglycaemia will affect the part of the brain that processes eyesight.
If you have diabetes, the most crucial ways to prevent diabetic retinopathy and its complications include:
• Controlling your blood sugar levels. Long-term uncontrolled high blood sugar levels will damage your retina’s blood vessels.
• Controlling your blood pressure. High blood pressure is shown to increase the risk of retinopathy developing into severe macular edema.
• Have a specialist diabetic eye exam every year. Early detection is crucial to help avoid vision loss.
Regular screening for diabetic retinopathy by an eye specialist is essential as early detection can help slow the progression of the condition and subsequent vision loss. The sooner the problem can be treated normally means the more effective the treatment will be. If you experience changes in your vision, such as pressure, eye pain, blurry or double-vision, book an appointment to see an ophthalmologist ASAP.
Regular eye exams are recommended every 1-2 years and not only do they detect changes in vision but can also test for diabetes and glaucoma, again the earlier detected, the easier it is to treat.