Wait, diabetes can affect your eyes?
Unfortunately yes. Blurred vision is a common symptom of diabetes, and it can affect your ability to drive, to read, and even to lead to partial or complete blindness.
OK, I get blurred vision. Help!
First of all, it’s important not to panic. Yes, blurred vision is a symptom of diabetes, but not necessarily on it’s own. Other symptoms include:
- Needing the loo often, especially at night
- Weight loss (even when you’re eating more)
- Feeling famished/thirsty
- Extreme tiredness
- Long-lasting cuts and bruises
There are also a bunch of other conditions that blurred vision points to that aren’t diabetes – and equally, your blurred vision could point to nothing at all. It could be a hangover, you could be a bit tired, it might be a migraine, or perhaps you just need glasses. Basically, it’s best not to jump to any conclusions. Googling symptoms will lead you to believe that the apocalypse is imminent, so we’d advise that you don’t try to self-diagnose!
If you’re worried, just consult your GP (rather than Google) who can check your blood and tell you conclusively whether or not you have anything to worry about.
Phew! So what is diabetes anyway?
Diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar to be too high or too low. It’s a lifelong condition, but one that can be kept at bay with medication.
To understand diabetes, you need a surface-level understanding of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that breaks down sugar in food during digestion. It turns that sugar (glucose) into energy. But when you have diabetes, your body can’t break this sugar down. This is for one of two reasons:
- Type 1 diabetes – if you have type 1 diabetes, your immune system fights off the cells that produce insulin. It’s the less common condition and is not something that can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.
- Type 2 diabetes – this is the condition where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. The cause of this is linked to an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s the more common of the two types of diabetes; in fact 90% of those in the UK with diabetes have type 2
So how can diabetes affect my eye health?
When you get your eyes tested, you might be invited to get a diabetic eye screening. It lasts about half an hour and it examines your retina for swelling. Diabetes basically causes damage to the blood vessels of the light sensitive tissue at the back of your eyes. This can be in either one of both eyes – oh, the horror – so look out for the below symptoms:
- Spots or dark strings floating in your vision (floaters)
- Blurred vision
- On and off blurring of your vision
- Changes to your ability to see colour
- Dark or empty patches in your vision
- Loss of vision
Experiencing all of these symptoms is a worst case scenario, but be aware that diabetes can cause mild to severe problems with your sight. You will be requested to attend a retinopathy screening on an annual basis, so it’s good to keep track of the health of your eyes. When you do have diabetes, it’s important to try to stay on top of the condition as much as is possible. The less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you will be to develop the eye condition.
What can I do to stay on top of it?
For any medical advice, make sure that you consult your doctor. They can tell you about preventative actions you can take and about what it means to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
When it comes to your eyes, make sure that you’re getting regular tests. If you do experience any of the above symptoms, the sooner you can get it diagnosed, the better.