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Can Diabetes Cause Vision Problems

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Long Term Effects Of Diabetes

Vision Problems and Diabetes

Over time, uncontrolled diabetes or chronic hyperglycemia can cause damage to the blood vessels throughout the body, including those in your eyes.

When the blood vessels in the retina become damaged, diabetic retinopathy, a serious eye disease, can develop.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the retinal blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing blurred vision and eventually leading to vision loss.

  • Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of permanent vision loss among people with diabetes.
  • Half of the people diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy will also be affected by permanent vision loss from diabetic macular edema.

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the fluid from the damaged blood vessels also leaks into the macula, the center of the retina, causing central vision loss and loss of vision for fine details.

Treatments to help slow down the progression of these sight-threatening diseases are aimed at preventing further vision loss. It is therefore crucial to visit your eye doctor for regular eye exams, as per your doctors recommendations.

Four Facts You Should Know About Diabetes And Eye Health

1. At first, the eye damage from diabetes may not be noticeable

Often, Rosenthal explains, there arent clear early warning signs that you have diabetic eye disease, that its developing, or even progressing.

And the longer you have diabetes, the greater the risk you have of it affecting your eyes.

Early changes can include bleeding within the retina, which may not affect your vision at first. At any stage, you can develop swelling in the macula, which often leads to blurred central vision, known as macular edema, said Rosenthal. The macula is where you have your sweet spot of vision. It’s what helps you recognize faces, read and see objects up close.

As your diabetes advances to the later stages, the blood flow to the retina can decrease, depriving your retina of oxygen and nutrition, recruiting new blood vessels, called neovascularization, one of the hallmarks of a condition called diabetic retinopathy.

While those new blood vessels sound like a really great solution to not getting enough nutrients and oxygen, they’re not good blood vessels, said Rosenthal. And, if left untreated, they can lead to vision loss.”

2. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy could cause irreversible vision loss

Diabetic retinopathy has two stages:

Macular edema can happen at either of these stages.

3. Luckily, there are treatment options available for diabetic retinopathy

According to Rosenthal, the gold standard for PDR is a laser treatment.

How Do I Know If I Have Blurry Vision

Blurry vision is one of the earliest symptoms of diabetes.

Blurry vision is typically defined as the inability to see images or details of images clearly when your vision lacks sharpness. This can be compared to viewing a picture that contains objects or images out of focus.

Blurry vision can be unilateral, affecting only one eye, or bilateral, affecting both eyes. You may also notice that your vision is either always blurry, sometimes burry, or only blurry on occasion.

Diabetes-related blurry vision may occur for a variety of reasons:

  • High blood sugar levels
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Fluctuating blood sugar levels

In some cases, blurry vision may be experienced if you are adapting to a new dosage of insulin medication.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Diabetes Eye Problems

Vision problems related to diabetes usually occur in both eyes at the same time. Here are some of the most common early symptoms:

  • Presence of floaters

  • Difficulty seeing at night or in dim lighting

  • Changing vision quality

If these eye problems are not treated properly, more serious symptoms can happen, including:

  • Darkened or empty spots in your field of vision

  • Loss of side or peripheral vision

  • Partial or total blindness

Is Kaleidoscope Vision Serious What Are The Complications

Diabetic Eye Disease: What You Need to Know

While the visual symptoms of kaleidoscope vision can feel alarming, they may not be anything to worry about. You could just have an ocular migraine. About a quarter of people who get migraines experience visual disturbances.8

If you experience kaleidoscope vision regularly, notice a sudden change in your visual system, or are having extreme difficulty with visual processing, seek medical attention right away. Kaleidoscope vision can be serious.

One possible cause of an ocular migraine is visual dysfunction, such as binocular visual dysfunction . This refers to a misalignment of the eyes that causes a discrepancy in their lines of sight.1

But a visual migraine headache could also be a symptom of a stroke, which can be fatal.5

Research has also found that migraines are associated with multiple sclerosis.3 More specifically, migraines are three times more common for people with multiple sclerosis than the general population.3

Migraines can also signify brain damage, especially if you experience extreme symptoms like temporary blindness and issues with your other senses. If you cover one eye and have no trouble seeing with the other, the issue is likely coming from the covered eye.

If you do not notice a difference when you cover either eye, it could mean your brain is involved.

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What Is Kaleidoscope Vision

Kaleidoscope vision refers to short-term distorted vision that causes visual images to look blurry, broken up, and bright in color as though you are looking through a kaleidoscope.

This type of vision is a side effect of a migraine aura, which can affect all of your senses, including your sense of smell and hearing.

Experiencing kaleidoscope vision can be scary. And while visual aura symptoms are usually not a major cause for concern, kaleidoscopic vision can be a sign of something more serious. This is why its essential to talk to an eye doctor if you experience frequent or long-lasting visual migraines.

Symptoms Of Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic retinopathy causes blood vessel damage in the retina. Left untreated, it can cause vision loss and can develop into DME.

Approximately 40% to 45% of patients with diabetes have symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, though many don’t notice it. Symptoms can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Floaters
  • Faded, washed out appearance of colors
  • Blank or dark areas in your field of vision

Diabetic macular edema is a build-up of fluid in the center of the retina, or the macula. This part of the eye is responsible for sharp vision and most of our color vision. Symptoms can include:

  • Blurry or wavy vision in the center of your field of vision
  • Floaters
  • Noticing colors appear faded or washed out

Both forms of diabetic eye disease are treatable. Types of treatment and effectiveness depend on the severity of the condition.

At UT Southwestern, we take a multidisciplinary approach to diagnose and treat diabetic eye disease. If we detect diabetes-related eye symptoms and you have been diagnosed with diabetes, we can recommend that you follow up with your endocrinologist or primary care doctor.

If we see signs of eye damage but you have not been diagnosed with diabetes, we can refer you to a diabetes expert at UT Southwestern. The ophthalmology team works closely with our endocrinology doctors and nurses to make sure you have the treatment and information you need to reduce your risks.

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Diabetes Treatment And Blurriness

For people who take medication to increase insulin in the body, changing the timing of food or a change in activity levels can result in low blood sugar levels.

Blurriness from low blood sugar does not result from changes in the eye. Instead, it is due to the way hypoglycemia affects the brain.

Vision that changes in this way will return to normal after glucose levels return to normal.

Reducing Your Risk Of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes: Eye Health

To prevent retinopathy or prevent it from getting worse, keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol within a healthy range.

Follow the ABCDEs of staying healthy with diabetes to reduce the risk of eye damage.

A A1C Most people should aim for an A1C of 7%* or less by managing blood sugars well. A1C is a blood test that is a measure of your average blood sugar level over the past 120 days.

B Blood pressure Control your blood pressure to less than 130/80* mmHg.

C Cholesterol The LDL cholesterol target is less than 2.0* mmol/L.

D Drugs to protect your heart Speak with your health-care team about medications.

E Exercise & Eating Regular physical activity, healthy eating, and maintain a healthy body weight.

S Screening for complications Ask your health-care team about tests for your heart, feet, kidneys, and eyes.

S Smoking cessation Stop smoking and seek support for help with quitting.

S Self management, stress, and other barriers Set goals for yourself to reach the targets and live well with diabetes, such as managing stress effectively.

* Discuss your target values with your health-care team. Note that A1C targets for pregnant women, older adults and children 12 years of age and under are different

For more information about diabetic retinopathy, visit the Canadian National Institute for the Blind .

To find a CAO optometrist in your area, visit the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

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How Does Diabetes Affect Your Eyes

Diabetes can lead to blurry vision in several ways.

In some cases, its a minor problem that you can resolve by stabilizing your blood sugar or taking eye drops. Other times, its a sign of something more serious thats worth discussing with your doctor.

In fact, blurred sight is often one of the first warning signs of diabetes.

How Can You Prevent Vision Loss From Diabetes

If you have diabetes, looking after your eyes with regular check-ups and healthy lifestyle choices is essential for preventing serious problems.


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Eye health is important for everyone. But for people with diabetes, the risk of eye disease and vision loss is much higher, making regular eye checks an essential part of your care plan.

Around one in three people with diabetes will develop some form of diabetic eye disease, most commonly diabetic retinopathy. The good news is that most diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented as long as its detected and treated early.

Unfortunately it is not uncommon for people to wait for their vision to be reduced before they present for a diabetes eye check, says Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden, a Principal Investigator and Deputy Director at CERA.

By that time the eye disease is often advanced and more difficult to manage. Early detection is the key to best outcomes.

Too many Australians are experiencing diabetes-related vision loss, because approximately half of those with diagnosed diabetes are not receiving eye examinations within the recommended timeframes.

How can diabetes affect your eyes?

In the short term, high blood glucose levels can cause blurred vision. This is due to temporary changes to the shape of the lens in your eye. When your blood glucose levels are stable again, your vision should return to normal.

Managing your eye health
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How Can I Protect My Eyes If I Have Diabetes

The best way to prevent diabetes-related eye problems is to manage your blood sugar levels. Remember, the longer your sugar is high, the more likely you are to experience these complications.

Here are a few other tips to help you protect your eyes:

  • Visit an eye doctor once a year so they can dilate your pupils and check your retinas. This will help them catch problems sooner.

  • Wear sunglasses that offer protection from UVA and UVB rays . Exposure to these harmful rays of the sun can speed up cataract development and worsen macular problems.

  • If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctors recommendations to lower it. High blood pressure can increase the pressure in your eyes, worsening glaucoma.

  • Stop smoking. Smoking causes damage to your blood vessels, which can make all of these eye problems worse.

If you notice any vision changes or any unusual symptoms with your eyes see a doctor as soon as possible. You only have one pair of eyes. Take the best care of them you can!

How Diabetes Affects Your Eyes

Diabetes Related Eye Problems in 2020

The main problem is high blood sugar . Diabetes means your body doesnât make or use insulin correctly, which raises blood sugar. When this first happens, it can change the level of fluid in parts of the eye that help you focus. You might have no symptoms, or your vision might be blurry for a few days or weeks. It usually returns to normal once your treatment plan brings your glucose levels back down.

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Look Out For Any Changes To Your Eyesight

You might not have any symptoms of retinopathy before it starts to affect your sight. So it’s important to go to your eye screening appointments.

But some people do notice changes to their vision. These wont be the same for everyone, but here are some of the early signs:

  • seeing floaters these look like whispy clouds, floating in and out of your vision
  • dimmer vision like youre wearing sunglasses all the time
  • struggling to see when its dark.

If you notice any changes, or youre struggling to see as clearly as normal, make an appointment with your doctor straight away. Dont wait until your next screening.

Your eyesight can also go a bit blurry if your blood sugar goes higher than usual, even for a short time. This is normal and is a symptom of high blood sugars. Get your sugar levels back to your target level and when theyve settled, your vision should go back to normal.

Prediabetes And Vision Loss

Your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes when you have prediabetes. This can cause retinopathy, which specifically means structural changes to the eye that can result in loss of vision. Having retinopathy is the most critical predictor for vision loss.

Simply put, a lot of individuals are unaware they have prediabetes. This leads to an even greater problem: not noticing retinopathy developing until its well-advanced and vision becomes blurry. Retinopathy has the best chance for treatment success if detected early and treated. Therefore, it is important to monitor your body and get regular eye examinations as prediabetes and vision loss are closely tied.

Diabetic retinopathy Early Signs

  • Pale, fatty deposits on the retina
  • Damaged nerve tissue
  • Any changes to the retinal blood vessels

Signs and Symptoms Of Vision Loss

  • Blurry vision or double vision
  • Flashing lights
  • A veil, cloud, or streaks of red in the field of vision, or dark or floating spots in one or both eyes, which can indicate bleeding
  • Blind or blank spots in the field of vision

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Diabetic Eye Disease Prevention

The best way to prevent diabetes-related eye problems is to manage your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.Ways you can help prevent eye problems caused by diabetes include:

  • Control your blood sugar. Your doctor can provide direction on how to keep your blood sugar normal and avoid fluctuations that can lead to diabetic eye diseases. In addition to getting your eyes checked, its also very important to keep the blood sugars under control, says Cai. This is not only good for you overall, but also good for your eyes.
  • Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Get recommendations from your doctor on ways you can combat high blood pressure and cholesterol, because these can worsen diabetic eye disease.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking can cause further damage to your blood vessels, including the ones in your eyes, so its very important to stop smoking.
  • Avoid harmful rays. Protect yourself from the suns harmful ultraviolet rays by wearing sunglasses. Exposure to these rays can speed up the progression of cataracts.

How Does Diabetes Affect My Eyes

Diabetes-related vision problems can be sudden!

Diabetes affects your eyes when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.

In the short term, you are not likely to have vision loss from high blood glucose. People sometimes have blurry vision for a few days or weeks when theyre changing their diabetes care plan or medicines. High glucose can change fluid levels or cause swelling in the tissues of your eyes that help you to focus, causing blurred vision. This type of blurry vision is temporary and goes away when your glucose level gets closer to normal.

If your blood glucose stays high over time, it can damage the tiny blood vessels in the back of your eyes. This damage can begin during prediabetes, when blood glucose is higher than normal, but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with diabetes. Damaged blood vessels may leak fluid and cause swelling. New, weak blood vessels may also begin to grow. These blood vessels can bleed into the middle part of the eye, lead to scarring, or cause dangerously high pressure inside your eye.

Most serious diabetic eye diseases begin with blood vessel problems. The four eye diseases that can threaten your sight are

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Get Your Eyes Screened

Eye screening is a way of spotting eye problems before you notice any changes to your sight.

Everyone whos over 12 years old and living with diabetes is entitled to an NHS diabetes eye screening once a year. Its one of your 15 Healthcare Essentials and a vital diabetes health check.

Diabetic retinopathy can become quite advanced before it starts affecting your sight, so that’s why it’s important to go to your regular eye screening appointments. That way, you can get the righttreatment in time.

Weve also got more information about what happens during an eye screening, so you can feel prepared going to your appointment.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some eye screening services have been paused. Read our latest update for more information on routine appointments.

What Is Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can affect people with diabetes. These conditions include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Over time, diabetes can cause damage to your eyes that can lead to poor vision or even blindness. But you can take steps to prevent diabetic eye disease, or keep it from getting worse, by taking care of your diabetes.

The best ways to manage your diabetes and keep your eyes healthy are to

Often, there are no warning signs of diabetic eye disease or vision loss when damage first develops. A full, dilated eye exam helps your doctor find and treat eye problems earlyoften before much vision loss can occur.

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