AN eye doctor is an important part of a medical team managing your diabetes. Damage from diabetes usually shows up first in what are called "end organs" of the body, meaning the fingers, toes, kidneys and eyes.
They can suffer the most from a lack of oxygen caused by too much sugar in the blood. And damage can happen even with tight glucose control.
Retinal damage, particularly leaky blood vessels in the retina can be treated to avoid major vision loss. Diabetes is one of the major causes of blindness. Although diabetics have elevated blood sugar levels, the real damage is done by lack of oxygen.
Because the eyes have such tiny blood vessels and yet need a lot of blood - and therefore oxygen, diabetes can cause a great deal of damage. Diabetes can also cause leaking of blood vessels in the eyes, which lead to scarring and loss of vision. If blood leaks are found, an eye surgeon can seal the leaking vessels with a laser.
There also is a technique that uses a laser to destroy "unnecessary" retinal areas to provide more oxygen to the important areas. Laser treatments for diabetic retinopathy are very successful but the success rate depends on the size and location of the leak, the length of time that the leak has existed and the stability of the diabetes
Fluctuating blood sugars and fluctuating vision are connected, because there is a correlation between the change in blood sugar levels and the ability of the crystalline lens in your eye to maintain a sharp focus.
Your eye doctor will be unable to adequately correct your vision until your blood sugars remain stable. Eye doctors typically will not prescribe a pair of glasses for a diabetic whose sugars are not under control.
A good rule of thumb for knowing when to get new glasses is to watch your AIC readings - an indication of your average blood glucose level over the last few months. If you are relatively stable, your glasses prescription will be accurate - especially if your AIC readings remain at or below seven per cent.
As blood sugars go up or down in diabetes, vision can change. If the sugar level changes are minimal, the vision changes too.
The eyes are the only body organs that have windows or pupils to see inside and find out what's going on. An eye exam can help pick up minor changes that can help your optometrists know if your diabetes is stable or not. It truly is a peek inside your body - a small price to pay for good health!
Diabetes can also affect any one of the three cranial nerves that are responsible for movement of the eyes. Diabetes is one of the more common conditions associated with the sixth nerve palsies or abducens nerve.
Paralysis of this nerve affects the lateral rectus muscle that allows the eyes to look outward. There is no specific medicine for this. The paralysis can be temporary and last a few months or it can be permanent.