When someone has diabetes, vision is often affected. Eye problems are an unwelcome side effect of diabetes, and if you are among the 29 million people in the United States who suffer from diabetes, you know that blurry vision can be scary. It’s easy to fear the worst, yet there are a number of things that can cause blurry vision in diabetic patients that are not permanent or sight-threatening. Although any vision change should be reported to your physician, knowing some of these alternative reasons may help ease your mind.
High and Low Blood Glucose Levels
Diabetes, of course, results in difficulty regulating blood glucose. When blood glucose levels rise, blood thickens. The body pulls all of the hydration it can from wherever it can in order to keep thickened blood flowing. This is why people with unregulated diabetes often feel thirsty and why mucous and saliva become thick. The lenses of the eye also contain a lot of fluid, and this, too is drawn from to assist in the flow of blood. Thus, with diabetes, vision can be affected by lens changes.
When the lens of the eye is dehydrated, it may swell or change shape. These changes cause problems with vision.
To remedy this, first check your blood sugar, then follow your doctor’s advice (including taking medications) to bring glucose levels back to normal. Your vision should return to normal as glucose is regulated.
Low blood glucose levels, or hypoglycemia, can also be a problem. With hypoglycemia, it’s not about what the eye is doing so much as it’s about what the brain is interpreting. When blood glucose is low, our brains struggle to function and can’t always comprehend the messages our eyes or other parts of our bodies are sending. Bumping those levels back up by eating glucose tablets or gel will remedy this kind of blurry vision.
The good news is that these changes can be temporary, and can often be remedied by regulating blood glucose levels. When they are chronic, however, the vessels in the back of the eye can become damaged—retinopathy—and permanent vision problems or blindness can result. This is one more (big) reason why it’s important for people with diabetes to avoid high-carb meals and remain vigilant about medications and health and diabetes vision check-ups.
Other Causes of Diabetes Vision Loss
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can cause vision problems by damaging the optic nerve in the back of the eye. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, making it equally important to regulate blood pressure in addition to blood glucose through diet, exercise, and/or medications prescribed by your doctor.
Stroke is another problem that tends to occur more frequently among people with diabetes. Often related to high blood pressure, strokes can result in brain damage, which can in turn result in vision difficulties or loss. Like high blood pressure, risk of stroke can be minimized through consistent regulation of blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a relatively common problem, even among people who do not have diabetes. More than 10 million Americans suffer from AMD, in which the macula, located inside the retina, gradually stops sending images to the optic nerve. In advanced stages, people with AMD lose their central vision (straight up the middle of their sightline), although peripheral vision remains. Some studies have found people with diabetes are more likely to have AMD.
Cataracts are another eye problem often associated with diabetes. A cataract is the clouding of the lens in the back of the eye. Eventually, if we live long enough, every one of us will develop cataracts. Diabetes, however, seems to rush their development.
Studies show that diabetes-related vision problems can often be prevented by maintaining blood glucose levels and blood pressure, by eating dark, leafy greens and other foods rich in antioxidants, decreasing salt intake, and shielding eyes from harmful UV rays. Staying on top of diabetes also means staying on top of one of your most precious gifts—your vision.
Fixing Other Diabetes Vision Problems
Even though certain vision problems are common in people with diabetes, that’s not to say that “regular” vision problems like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (over-40 vision) and astigmatism are not also common. Some people mistakenly think that, because they have diabetes, they are not candidates for LASIK or other laser vision correction procedures. Thankfully for thousands of people, that assumption is incorrect.
As long as diabetes is regulated, many people are candidates for LASIK or one of its six modern variations. This means there are life-changing solutions available that may allow you to see the world without the burden of glasses or contact lenses—even with diabetes.
Brinton Vision in St. Louis is among only a handful of LASIK providers in the United States to offer refractive lens exchange (which prevents cataracts in addition to correcting vision), Visian ICL, Kamra inlay, advanced surface ablation (ASA, or sometimes called Advanced PRK), LRI, and SMILE laser vision correction. We believe that your vision is worth the investment of making sure you are treated in the method meant for your unique vision and eye anatomy.
If you would like to learn more about LASIK in St. Louis or how Brinton Vision can help you, please call 314.375.2020. To schedule your comprehensive Brinton Vision Ocular Analysis to determine if you are a candidate for laser vision correction, visit https://brintonvision.com/schedule/. We look forward to helping you along your journey to visual freedom.
St. Louis LASIK surgeon Dr. Jason P. Brinton, MD is an internationally recognized specialist in the field of refractive surgery. He is a graduate of Harvard College, earned his medical doctorate from the Harvard Medical School, and is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. He has been inducted to America’s Top Ophthalmologists by the Consumer Research Council of America, Leading Physicians of the World by the International Association of Healthcare Professionals, and Top Doctors in America by Castle Connolly. In 2015, he received global recognition as the recipient of the Visian ICL Young Ophthalmologist Award in Barcelona, Spain, and in 2016 was named Ocular Surgery News’ Premier Surgeon 300 Innovators in Refractive Cataract Surgery. In 2017, he was named in Top Doctors in St. Louis. He is a dedicated husband, father of four beautiful children, and is passionate about his life, his work, and service to others.