Visual symptoms of diabetes include fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, loss of visual field and flashes and floaters within the eyes. Sometimes these early signs of diabetes are detected in a thorough optometric examination. Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness, farsightedness and premature presbyopia (the inability to focus on close objects). It can result in diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, a lack of eye muscle coordination (strabismus) and decreased corneal sensitivity.
Preventing Vision Loss from Diabetes
The best way to prevent vision loss is to maintain control of your diabetes. During a routine eye examination, your optometrist can diagnose potential vision-threatening changes in your eye that may be treated to prevent blindness. See your physician regularly and follow instructions about diet, exercise and medication.
The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. It occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels that nourish your eye’s retina, the delicate, light sensitive lining of the back of the eye. These blood vessels may begin to leak, swell or develop brush-like branches. If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can result. Several factors that increase the risk of developing retinopathy include smoking, high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and pregnancy.
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy may cause blurred vision, or it may produce no visual symptoms at all. As the disease progresses, you may notice a cloudiness of vision, blind spots or floaters. To detect diabetic retinopathy, your optometrist can look inside your eyes with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope that lights and magnifies the blood vessels in your eyes.
Treating Diabetic Retinopathy
In the early stages, diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser therapy. A bright beam of light is focused on the retina, causing a microscopic burn which seals off leaking blood vessels. In other cases, surgery inside the eye may be necessary. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial to preserve sight.