Diabetes affects more than 34 million adults in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in their 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report. The chronic condition – which, according to the CDC, “affects the way your body converts food into energy” – is easily undiagnosed in its early stages. However, if you are noticing this problem with your eyes, it may mean that your blood sugar levels have dropped and you have diabetes. Read on to learn what to look for when it comes to detecting diabetes.
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Blurred vision is common in people with uncontrolled diabetes, according to health company Kaiser Permanente. In particular, blurred vision after eating is a cause for concern, which should lead to a visit to the doctor, according to experts at Verywell Health.
“Suddenly high blood sugar after a meal can cause blurred vision because the rapid rise in blood sugar causes an integral part of the eye, the lens, to swell,” they explain. “The swelling is caused by fluid moving in and out of the eye, causing changes in the shape of the lens and changes in vision.”
According to the online health resource, once blood sugar levels reach normal levels and the lens shape returns to its original size, regular vision can be restored. However, it may only take a few days to about six weeks for the effects of this blurred vision episode to wear off.
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“Diabetes is a condition that is expected to progress gradually over time. If type 2 diabetes is left untreated, high blood sugar can affect various cells and organs in the body,” said the endocrinologist Vidya Aluri, MD, of the UnityPoint Clinic Diabetes and Kidney Center, told LiveWell. “Complications include kidney damage that often leads to dialysis, eye damage that can lead to blindness, or an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.”
When diabetes affects the eyes, retinopathy (a disease that causes the blood vessels in the retina to grow abnormally) may occur. According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetic retinopathy can also lead to bleeding from the back of the eye, retinal detachment (which can lead to severe vision loss), glaucoma, and complete vision loss. Kaiser Permanente encourages anyone who notices “sharp flashes of light” or things that look like cobwebs to see a doctor immediately, as this could indicate a detached retina.
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When blood sugar levels get high, people with untreated or undiagnosed type 2 diabetes can experience a variety of symptoms other than blurred vision, Aluri says. She explains that people can react with excessive thirst, frequent urination, extreme fatigue, repeated skin infections, and poor wound healing. Other symptoms of diabetes include unexplained weight loss, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, excessively dry skin, and increased hunger.
According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), people with type 1 diabetes who don’t make insulin usually notice symptoms almost immediately because their condition is more severe. People with type 2 diabetes who don’t make enough insulin usually have mild symptoms that go unnoticed for some time. “Some people don’t find out they have the disease until they have diabetes-related health problems such as vision problems or heart problems,” explains the NIDDK.
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If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, Kaiser Permanente recommends keeping blood sugar levels under control and seeing your ophthalmologist regularly to prevent the disease from damaging your eyes permanently. “If you’ve recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, schedule an eye exam as soon as possible,” the health company said. “If your exam shows no damage, get a retinal eye exam every two years.”
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