If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you’re likely going through some stress and turmoil. You now know how to manage the unpleasant symptoms you were dealing with before your diagnosis, but you’re also worried about living the rest of your life with diabetes. What kinds of consequences will diabetes have on your body?
If this describes your situation, you’re not alone. Type 2 diabetes is a fairly common problem that many Americans struggle with, and it’s also very manageable. Because so many people have diabetes, you have many resources to turn to about diabetes management, and many local health professionals have the expertise to help you move forward and live a happy, healthy life.
In particular, if you have diabetes, you’ll want to consult an ophthalmologist. Diabetes can negatively impact your eyes, so you should visit an eye doctor regularly so he or she can catch and treat any eye problems early on.
Below, we’ll tell you why diabetes affects your eyesight, what conditions you should look out for, and how you can minimize your risk for certain conditions.
How Does Diabetes Impact Your Vision?
Most people with diabetes won’t suffer from major eye problems. You’ll probably have to get glasses as you age like everyone else does, but in most cases, you won’t have to worry about massive vision troubles. However, diabetes does come with a higher risk of blindness, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the ways diabetes can impact your eyesight.
Diabetes can cause fluid to leak into your eye, which blurs your eyesight. When you first start insulin treatments, you might notice that your vision blurs, but this problem should resolve itself as you get used to the treatment.
In some cases, blurry vision can be a sign of one of the more severe problems listed below. If your blurry vision refuses to go away, you should visit your eye doctor as soon as possible.
As fluid leaks into your eye, your eyes’ lenses swell. This swelling means that people with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts, or opaque spots on the lens, than people without diabetes. People with diabetes also develop cataracts at a younger age than others. Fortunately, severe cataracts can often be corrected with surgery.
The fluid that builds up in your eyes affects more than just your lenses. Fluid and high blood pressure also put pressure on your eyes’ nerves and blood vessels, which deteriorate over time and cause vision loss.
Doctors can manage some types of glaucoma with surgery and drug treatment options. However, some people with diabetes develop a specialized type of glaucoma where blood vessels grow across the eyes and increase ocular pressure. This type of glaucoma is more difficult to treat.
Over time, high blood sugar damages your blood vessels, including the small blood vessels in your eye. If you have any type of diabetic retinopathy, your eyes’ blood vessels swell and leak blood, which damages the retina.
Some people suffer from proliferative retinopathy, where blood vessels proliferate across the retina. Eventually, this condition can lead to retinal detachment and permanent vision loss. Most people with diabetes will eventually have some form of diabetic retinopathy, but proliferative retinopathy is relatively rare.
If You Have Diabetes, How Can You Protect Your Vision?
As we mentioned above, if you have diabetes, you won’t automatically suffer from vision loss. Many people with diabetes can manage their condition and protect their eyesight at the same time. However, because you’re at an increased risk of all of the conditions mentioned above, you should learn to be hyper-vigilant about your eyesight. Follow these important steps to keep your eyes healthy.
Visit Your Eye Doctor Frequently
Most people should visit an eye doctor at least once a year so they can avoid eye problems. If you have diabetes, you should never neglect this important visit. During your eye exam, your doctor performs a series of tests, including a dilated vision test, that can give him or her insights about how diabetes affects your vision.
Some conditions, like proliferative retinopathy, have few symptoms until it’s too late to treat them. See your doctor once a year and as soon as you notice any troubling vision changes.
Smoking is bad for your vision in the best of times. But combined with diabetes, it can create even more serious problems. Like diabetes, smoking raises the pressure in your eyes, and it can also damage your eyes’ blood vessels. If you quit smoking, you can protect your eyes, improve your blood pressure and circulation, and avoid other serious complications from diabetes like amputation.
Eat Well and Exercise Frequently
Your medications help you control your blood pressure and blood sugar, but eating healthy foods and exercising several times a week can help as well. Talk to your doctor about your recommended diet and exercise regimens.
Visit Your Eye Doctor
Now that you’ve read this blog, you’re better prepared to ensure your vision stays healthy while you manage your diabetes. With help from your doctors, including your eye doctor, you can look forward to many years of healthy vision.
Want to learn more about your eyesight? Check our blog for updates.