When you get a diabetes diagnosis, you get a long list of things to watch out for — foot problems, nerve damage, cardiovascular and kidney issues, even potential dementia — all of which are related to high blood sugar levels. But you may not be aware that diabetes affects your eyes, too.
But Dr. Kim Doan is. She helps diabetic patients throughout Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, California, and beyond by monitoring and treating their diabetes-related eye issues. Advanced Eyecare of Orange County offers a full spectrum of eye care services, including specialized treatments for those with diabetes. Here’s what you need to know about the connection between diabetes and your eyes.
Beware of diabetic eye disease
As you know, one of the primary symptoms of diabetes is high blood glucose, or high blood sugar. If you don’t control it, it leads to a variety of health complications. When it affects your eyes, it’s called diabetic eye disease, which is really an umbrella term that includes several possible conditions, such as:
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Diabetic macular edema
If caught early, we can treat, and sometimes reverse, these conditions, but advanced cases may call for focal laser or scatter laser therapy or even surgery. Left untreated, you risk losing your eyesight.
What happens to your eyes when you have diabetes?
High blood sugar causes the fluid levels in your body to change, and that includes the fluids in your eyes. When tissues in your eyes swell, you may have blurry vision until the fluids level out again. This often occurs when you change medications or treatments.
Left unchecked, high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in your eyes, causing them to leak, swell, bleed, scar over, create pressure, and even generate new, but weaker, blood vessels. This sets the stage for the common diabetes-related conditions listed above.
If you have diabetes, regular eye exams are even more important
Typically, diabetes-related eye problems occur gradually and don’t have many symptoms until the condition has advanced to a serious stage. That’s why it’s important to see Dr. Doan regularly, so she can monitor changes in your eyes and catch problems before they get out of hand. For instance, if we find you have diabetic retinopathy and treat it early, you reduce your risk of going blind by 95%.
If you experience an acute attack of eye pain, blurry vision, nausea, or a rainbow effect, seek medical attention immediately.
Diabetes and pregnancy increase your risks for eye problems
Diabetic retinopathy, a condition caused by damaged blood vessels that affect your eye’s retina, is a common concern for all diabetics, but especially diabetic women who become pregnant, as the risk increases considerably.
It’s important to note, though, that women who develop gestational diabetes while they’re pregnant, are not at higher risk for diabetic retinopathy.
Another complication of high blood sugar and diabetes is inadequate circulation, which may lead to paralysis of your eye muscles. If this happens, especially if it’s only one eye or the other, your eyes won’t work together, and they send mixed messages — or mixed images — to your brain. The result is double-vision, where you see two images that overlap one another.
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, as well as other eye infections are common in people with diabetes, because your condition weakens your ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. Make sure you always take precautions, such as avoiding touching your eyes, keeping your hands well-washed in case you do touch your eyes, and, of course, controlling your blood sugar.
Where to go for diabetes-related eye issues
If you have diabetes, we’d love to see you. Our team specializes in caring for every aspect of your eye health and can monitor and treat all diabetic-related issues. We have two locations in Newport Beach and one in Huntington Beach to serve you. Just give us a call or request an appointment online so we can schedule your first consultation with Dr. Doan.