How does diabetes affect your vision?
A common question we hear from patients is, “If my diabetes is well controlled, am I still at risk of vision loss?” The short answer is yes; even with fantastic blood sugar control, you are still at risk of developing retinopathy and other diabetes-related eye problems. Unfortunately, people often neglect their eye health; although 90% of vision loss from diabetes is preventable, only 40% of people with diabetes have routine eye exams.
Elevated blood glucose levels wreak havoc on the body by damaging blood vessels. Almost any organ can be affected, including the eyes. Small blood vessels in the retina can be damaged, leading to leakage of blood and swelling. Parts of the retina can become starved of oxygen. In more severe cases, these changes can lead to a detachment of the retina and permanent vision loss.
Diabetes also causes earlier and more severe cataract formation, or clouding of the natural lens. Diabetes is linked to glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve) and strokes in the eye. Finally, diabetes can cause and exacerbate dry eye symptoms by affecting the nerves in the cornea. Every one of these problems can lead to temporary or permanent vision loss.
Luckily, the early effects of diabetes are reversible and can be detected by your eye doctor. For this reason, it is extremely important to have a yearly comprehensive eye exam, even if your blood sugars are well-controlled. Your primary care physician or endocrinologist will likely refer you for an eye exam, but in case they don’t, give us a call, and we’ll set one up.