If you have diabetes, you probably already know that you’re at risk for vision problems. You know that controlling your blood sugar and monitoring your A1C is vital for your overall health. It’s also critical to prevent diabetic retinopathy, which is the most common cause of vision loss from diabetes. But here are some facts about diabetes and your eye health that you might not know:
1. Most Major Eye Disease from Diabetes Takes About Five to 10 Years to Develop
But that doesn’t mean your vision is safe during those years. Damage to your eyes from uncontrolled blood sugar doesn’t have symptoms at first. That’s why it is critical to have an ophthalmologist examine your eyes regularly to find problems before you notice them.
2. People with Diabetes Are Twice as Likely to Develop Cataracts than Other Adults
People with diabetes are more prone to cataracts. Cataracts develop at a younger age and progress faster in adults with diabetes than in people without it. High blood sugar levels lead to a build-up of cells and proteins in the eye’s lens, making it cloudy. Maintaining strict control of blood glucose levels may help delay the onset of cataracts.
3. Women with Diabetes Who Become Pregnant Are at High Risk for Diabetic Retinopathy and Vision Loss
Women with diabetes should have an eye exam early in the pregnancy, then again as recommended by their ophthalmologist. However, women who develop diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes) are generally not at risk for developing retinopathy while they are pregnant.
4. Diabetes Can Cause Eye Muscle Paralysis and Double Vision
When diabetes causes enough damage to the body’s circulation, it can lead to paralysis of the muscles that move the eyes. If one or more muscles in one eye don’t work properly, the eyes don’t work together. The brain receives two images instead of one, causing double vision or diplopia. The double vision usually last a few days to a few weeks. Keeping blood sugar controlled and taking diabetes medicine as prescribed can help resolve this vision problem.
5. People with Diabetes May Be More Likely to Get Eye Infections
You probably know that people with diabetes get infections easily. In fact, when diabetes is not controlled properly, it can affect your body’s immune system, lowering your ability to fight infection. That can lead to conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other eye infections. To prevent eye infections, keep your blood sugar levels in good control, wash your hands often and don’t touch your eyes.
6. Blurry Vision from Diabetes Can Be Temporary or Much More Serious
If you're blood sugar is not under control, you can have blurry vision that comes and goes. This blurriness will go away when you control your blood sugar. Get your blood sugar stabilized before your eye exams to get the correct eyeglass prescription.
The long-term damage of diabetes can also affect your retina and the blood vessels at the back of the eye. This can cause blurry, fluctuating vision and possible permanent vision loss. Keep all your appointments with your ophthalmologist to catch problems early.