Diabetes and the eyes



What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious and sometimes fatal disease deriving from the body’s inability to produce or effectively use insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of blood glucose (sugar), which is an energy source. Since individuals living with diabetes do not produce or effectively use insulin, they are prone to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves. 

Symptoms of diabetes: 
Signs and symptoms of diabetes include, but are not limited to:
     • Blurred vision
     • Unusual thirst
     • Frequent urination
     • Weight change (gain or loss)
     • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
     • Frequent or recurring infections
     • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
     • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet


How does diabetes affect the eyes?
Diabetes can seriously affect your eyes, causing temporary or permanent vision loss. That is why annual eye exams are critical for people living with diabetes, and are covered by OHIP regardless of age. 
An eye exam can detect the presence of diabetes, as well diabetes-related eye problems such as:   

    Diabetic retinopathy
    Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels inside your eye. This results in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes. 

    Glaucoma
    Glaucoma is associated with elevated pressure within the eye and can lead to serious vision loss if not detected and treated at an early stage.

    Cataracts
    Cataracts cause cloudy vision and glare due to the lens inside the eye losing its transparency over time. Cataracts can require changes to your glasses or surgical removal.

    Full or partial paralysis of muscles that move the eyes   
    This can lead to eye misalignment, and consequently double vision.

    Decreased corneal sensitivity  
    Diabetes can damage the nerve endings of the cornea (the clear dome-shaped covering the front of the eye).  This can lessen the cornea’s ability to respond to stimulation, such as a foreign body.

    Vision problems. For example:
    - Fluctuating or blurring of vision
    - Occasional double vision 
    - Loss of visual field

For more information on how diabetes can affect the eyes, contact your local optometrist. If you do not have one, click here to find an optometrist near you.