Protect your eyesight, control glucose
Your eyesight is directly related to the state of your diabetes control. In fact your eye health depends upon keeping your blood sugar in check.
Blurred vision goes with high blood sugar
The reason for this is that high blood sugar over time causes the lenses in your eyes to absorb water and swell up. This swelling alters the curve of the lens and results in blurred vision. Fortunately this condition is not permanent. It takes about six weeks of normalized glucose levels for this swelling to go down. For this reason, do not get a new prescription for glasses or contacts until your diabetes is under control for about two months.
Long term lack of control = permanent damage
If your blood sugar goes unchecked for five years or more you risk permanent eye damage.
The small blood vessels in the back of your eye may become weak and begin to leak. When this happens, your body responds by building new blood vessels to restore blood flow to the retina. The medical term for this is proliferative diabetic retinopathy. These new blood vessels are weak and may cause bleeding into the eye. They may also cause your retina to detach from the back of your eye and may cause blindness. Laser surgery is often used to treat this condition if diagnosed early enough.
The best treatment is prevention.
Retinopathy is the most common eye disease in diabetics, and is the leading cause of blindness in the US.
Diabetics can reduce the risk of permanent eye damage or loss of their eyesight by keeping blood pressure and blood sugar at healthy levels. A ten year study was conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to determine the effects of improved glucose levels. The study found a 75% reduction in cases of retinopathy.
You should see your eye doctor, either ophthalmologist or optometrist yearly, or if you notice changes in your eyesight.
Be sure tell your eye doctor that you are a diabetic. That way your doctor will know to include a dilated eye exam to look for retinopathy. There are also new tests using digital photography to test for retinopathy without dilating the pupils.
Final thoughts on diabetes and eyesight
I have worn glasses since being diagnosed with diabetes. I have also had a restriction on my drivers license requiring glasses for the past twelve years. Since I began using mealtime (bolus) insulin several months ago I have been able to regulate my blood sugar to a greater degree. I went to the DMV this past week to renew my drivers license. I was happily surprised that I passed the eye exam without corrective lenses. Don’t misunderstand, I still do not have 20/20 vision and never will. But my vision has not deteriorated over the past twelve years, and has even improved slightly.
Mine is not a special case, I believe most diabetics can keep their vision by working hard to keep their blood sugar at a healthy level.