When a diabetic experiences blurry vision, it can mean a change in eye grade—or it could be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy.
According to Dr. Amadeo Veloso Jr., director of retina and vitreous disease service at Asian Eye Institute, people who have had diabetes for over five years and have poor blood sugar control are at greater risk for diabetic retinopathy.
The retina is the part of the eye that acts like the film in a camera. When the light strikes in the retina, it “takes a picture” and sends it to the brain through the optic nerve.
Veloso explains: “Too much sugar in the blood blocks the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, decreasing its blood supply.”
Because the blood supply is decreased, the retina is poorly oxygenated. The eye then attempts to grow new blood vessels. But because these new blood vessels don’t develop properly, they are weak and can leak fluid or blood easily into the retina. This leakage can cause complications that can lead to serious vision problems like macular edema, glaucoma, retinal detachment, retinal hemorrhage and cataracts.
People with diabetic retinopathy don’t know they have it because it usually has no symptoms in its early stages. However, as it progresses, a patient could experience warning signs like seeing floaters or clear or dark spots or strings that float across their vision. Some may experience fluctuating vision, impaired vision or seeing dark or empty areas in their vision.
Vision lost to diabetic retinopathy is irreversible. However, Veloso clarifies that having diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean patients will suffer from serious eye problems.
“This is why we urge patients to manage their diabetes and overall health to reduce their risk of getting diabetic retinopathy. They should also get their eyes checked at least every six months so we can monitor their eye condition and prevent possible vision loss that can lead to blindness.
“Lifestyle changes can go a long way in preventing further complications,” he adds. “Make sure to eat healthy, exercise daily and quit smoking. You should also monitor your blood sugar level and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. More importantly, visit your retina specialist right away if you start experiencing vision problems.”