November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, so we are sharing some important details about diabetes and your eye health. Diabetes has many health implications, most of which are a result of damage to the blood vessels from high blood glucose levels. The fluctuations, and particularly the elevations, of blood sugar levels that occur in diabetic individuals can have serious effects on your vision. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults.
Here are 3 things you should know about diabetes and your vision:
1. The Changes In Blood Sugar Affect Your Vision
When your blood sugar creeps up, one of the things you will likely experience is blurred vision. This is a result of swelling of the eye from increased fluid levels, changing the shape of the eye. This is usually temporary, and once your blood sugar returns to within normal levels, your vision should be clear, however, this elevated strain on the blood vessels of the eye can cause permanent damage over time.
Diabetic eye disease, a series of sight-compromising issues that include diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina due to damaged blood vessels), diabetic macular edema (damage to the macula - the area of the retina that is responsible for sharpness/clarity of sight due to swelling and blood vessel damage), glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve due to excess pressure inside the eye), and cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye causing glaring, hazy vision), can develop if blood sugar levels are not consistently well managed.
2. Damage To Your Eyes May Not Be Obvious At First
While fluctuations in blood sugar may give diabetic individuals the temporary effect of blurred vision that comes and goes, the long-term damage to the blood vessels of the eye from high blood sugar levels and excess fluid in the body, as a result, may not be apparent until later stages of diabetic eye diseases.
In the beginning stages of diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels begin to swell and weaken, with no noticeable outward signs. As the disease progresses, the blood vessels may become blocked entirely and cease to deliver blood to the retina effectively, scar tissue forms, and vision begins to become obstructed. Swelling and excess fluid built up in the eye as a result of too much blood glucose also causes changes to the eye that may sneak up on you – loss of peripheral vision, slow loss of clarity of sight, and eventually loss of sight.
3. Many Diabetes-Related Vision Problems Are Preventable And Treatable
While the risk of eye diseases is significantly higher for diabetics than those without the disease, if closely monitored, most diabetes-related eye diseases are preventable to a point, and there may be treatment options available for the issues.
If you have diabetes, you know the importance of regular doctor checkups, keeping tabs on your overall health, and making any necessary changes to your medication as needed. Just as it is highly important that you keep up with your primary doctor visits, it is equally important to stay on top of your regular eye health checkups.
Having a full, dilated eye exam at least once a year is critical to the health of your eyes, and may even save your sight. Unfortunately, researchers at the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that a staggering 60 percent of diabetes patients were skipping their eye exams, potentially compromising their vision.
If you have diabetes, even if your symptoms are mild and your blood glucose levels are well-maintained, don’t neglect your regular eye exams. Schedule an appointment at one of VisionQuest Eyecare’s two area locations; in East Indianapolis and Greenwood, with convenient late-day and weekend hours to choose from.