We have a lot of patients that come in to our clinics and are unaware of visual changes and eye health associated with diabetes. The reason for this blog is to bring some understanding and perspective to common issues that one can experience due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels.
In Canada diabetes is the single largest cause of blindness. Does that mean that everyone that has diabetes will experience blindness in some capacity down the line? The answer is blindness is an eventual outcome of uncontrolled diabetes left unchecked or uncorrected over a period of time. In fact blindness is not the only manifestation of uncontrolled diabetes. There are a wide range of systemic manifestations that can also arise by the time your eye health has declined to that capacity.
Overtime, diabetes causes changes in the retina that is the neural layer of the eye that actually coverts the light waves into visual stimuli and transmits to the brain, which in turn gives us the vision we have. In the short term you are not likely to experience vision loss but due to high glucose levels the cells can swell due to fluid retention that can lead to blurry vision. This however is temporary and the vision improves again when the glucose levels get closer to normal.
When the glucose levels stay high for a long period of time is when some irreversible damage that starts occurring. The small blood vessels start leaking fluid and cause swelling. There can also be growth of new weak blood vessels that can bleed and cause scarring. This is called diabetic retinopathy. These are irreversible changes that occur and are very well avoidable with good blood glucose control. They can further lead to macular edema that is swelling of the optic disc that can hinder the sharp vision in that part of the eye leading to partial vision loss. People with uncontrolled diabetes have higher incidence of premature cataracts.These are changes that can be very well be controlled by managing good blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol that are the ABC’s for diabetes control.
The Ontario Health Ministry offers a full eye exam once every year through OHIP to help maintain and proactively manage and monitor these changes that can help prevent blindness.
Please visit your Optometrist for your eye exams at regularly and maintain good eye health.