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Some people with diabetes experience blurred vision as one of the symptoms of the disease. This article outlines 5 things you should know about blurred vision in diabetes.

Diabetes is a disorder in which patients have high levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood due to an inability to properly metabolize the sugar. There are two types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas does not produce adequate levels of insulin, the hormone that is responsible for metabolizing glucose
  • Type 2 diabetes, in which the cells of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin.

One of the common symptoms of diabetes is the development of blurry vision. In fact, it may be one of the first symptoms you notice of your diabetes. These are the five things you should know about blurred vision in diabetes.

1. Causes of blurred vision in diabetes

There are several reasons why diabetes can lead to blurry vision, which can be divided into the effects of diabetes in the short-term and the long-term.

In the short term, patients with diabetes can experience blurriness in their vision because the lens (the part of the eye that focuses light onto the back part of the eye) swells. This occurs because in patients with diabetes, fluid tends to move into and out of the eye due to the high levels of blood sugars. This short-term problem is solved when your blood glucose levels get under control and fall down to normal levels. Hence, the effects in the short-term are temporary.

In the long term, if your diabetes is not well-controlled then the high blood sugars can cause damage to the blood vessels that provide blood to the eye. This can be quite dangerous as it can negatively affects the retina and causes damage. This leads to blurred and impaired vision. Unlike short-term complications, this damage is not temporary and will need to be treated using medication.

Another reason why patients with diabetes may develop blurred vision is because of their medication. Diabetes medication helps lower your blood glucose levels. Additionally, patients with diabetes are taught to change their diet and activity levels. Together, there can be times where patients become hypoglycemic, which is a condition in which patients have low blood sugar levels. This can be indirectly lead to blurriness in the vision because hypoglycemia affects the brain. Again, this can be solved once your blood sugar levels return back to normal.

2. The guidelines for regular eye check-ups for diabetes patients

The American diabetes association has a set of recommended guidelines that patients with diabetes should follow regarding eye check-ups. This is subcategorized by the type of diabetes you have.

For patients with type 1 diabetes, the association recommends that you get a full dilated eye exam within five years of receiving your diabetes diagnosis. For patients with type 2 diabetes, the association recommends that you get a full eye exam right after you have been diagnosed. Additionally, you should also get a dilated eye exam if you are pregnant or want to get pregnant as pregnancy can exacerbate diabetes.

You should continue to get regular eye check-ups if you have diabetes, preferably with an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) rather than a regular doctor or an optician. This is because ophthalmologists are specifically trained to look for and treat diabetes-related eye issues. If there are any issues, then an ophthalmologist will know the ideal way to treat the problem.

3. Diagnosis

When you go to an ophthalmologist, they will first begin by looking at your retina (which is located in the back of your eye). They will do this by making your pupil larger through the use of dilating eye drops. This type of exam can look for whether or not you have diabetic retinopathy, which is a disease that can develop due to uncontrolled diabetes. If you show that you have any potential eye problems, then you will need to get regular eye checks multiple times a year.

4. Treatment

There are a number of treatments that can help treat eye problems in patients with diabetes. First and foremost, it is absolutely vital to get regular check-ups as soon as you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Ideally, if your diabetes is well-controlled then you likely won’t experience any eye complications for several years.

In the case that an ophthalmologist does find that you have diabetic retinopathy, these are the different treatment types that they will recommend:

  • Lifestyle changes. In order to treat diabetic retinopathy, it is important to keep your blood glucose levels in the normal range. This includes eating healthy and exercising more.
  • Steroid treatment. Eye drops that have steroids can be used for treatment of eye complications.
  • Eye injections. One of the treatments that the doctor may prescribe is inserting a very thing needle that contains a drug known as anti-VEGF into the eye. This can help stop the development of new blood vessels.
  • Laser surgery. If you have swelling in your retina, then using laser surgery can help reduce the swelling, and prevent bleeds.
  • Microsurgery. In this case, a surgeon will remove a jelly-type substance behind the eye, which will improve your vision.

5. When you should go see a doctor

Having blurry vision, especially if its combined with other diabetic symptoms of eye pain, is not normal. Therefore, if you experience these then you should go get your eyes checked as soon as possible. You should also get your blood sugar levels checked to see if you have underlying diabetes.

  • Gray, Sarah. "Medication mysteries: Unexpected fatigue and vision changes." Australian Pharmacist 35.7 (2016): 58.
  • Khan, A., et al. "Visual complications in diabetes mellitus: beyond retinopathy." Diabetic Medicine 34.4 (2017): 478-484.
  • Dewan, Manju. "Forewarnings of Diabetes: Weapons against this deadly disease." Library of Progress-Library Science, Information Technology & Computer 37.1 (2017).
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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