Diabetes and Eyesight: How High Blood Sugar Affects Your Vision

Diabetes can affect your eye health as much as your overall health. It does this through diabetic retinopathy which affects the blood vessels in your eyes. Without treatment, blood vessels grow that will only make your condition worse and put you at risk of developing irreversible vision loss.

Dr. Travis Thompson and Dr. Catherine Abbott are trained in spotting the early signs of diabetic eye disease. To catch these and other issues, they perform comprehensive eye exams to get a clearer picture of your overall eye health. This way they can monitor the progression of your symptoms and help you get the treatment that you need.

The Connection Between Diabetes and Eyesight

Your eye is designed much like a camera. Light passes through the lens toward the back wall where it reaches the retina, a light-sensitive layer of tissue. The retina then organizes the visual data and sends it through the optic nerve to your brain where it becomes the things that you see. Unfortunately, diabetes can interfere with this process and affect your ability to see clearly.

This can be in the form of:

  • Non-proliferative retinopathy
  • Macular edema
  • Proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Non-Proliferative Retinopathyeye doctor knoxville

Diabetes first affects your vision by attacking the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. When healthy, these blood vessels nourish the eyes and help keep them functioning properly. However, high blood sugar can cause these blood vessels to leak into the retinal tissue, leading to a variety of eye problems. Fortunately, new abnormal blood vessels aren’t created in the early stages.

Common issues related to non-proliferative retinopathy include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Double vision
  • A sudden increase in eye floaters
  • Loss of peripheral vision

Clinically Significant Macular Edema

Clinically significant macular edema, or macular edema for short, occurs when fluid builds up in the center of the retina where the macula is located. This is usually caused by leakage during non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. The macula is responsible for keeping your central vision clear and sharp so that you can see directly in front of you.

Macular edema affects your central vision by causing the macula to thicken and swell as fluids build up. This distorts your vision with the most common symptoms being:

  • Blurred vision
  • Wavy vision 
  • Faded colors
  • Vision loss

Proliferative Retinopathy

Proliferative retinopathy is an advanced form of diabetic retinopathy. At this point, the blood vessels in your eyes have been almost or completely blocked. Your body naturally responds to this by creating new blood vessels, but these new pathways aren’t nearly as functional as your old ones. They are thin, weak, and prone to bleeding which can lead to scar tissue.

Scarring from proliferative retinopathy provides its own dangers. As the scar tissue shrinks it can start to pull the retina away from the back of your eye. This can eventually result in retinal detachment which can cause permanent loss of central and peripheral vision.

Click here to learn about other eye diseases that can have a major impact on your vision!

Treating Diabetic Eye Disease In Knoxville, TNvision exams knoxville

At Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical, Dr. Travis Thompson and Dr. Catherine Abbott are trained to spot the signs of diabetic eye disease early on. This is done with a dilated eye exam that allows them to see the inner structures of your eyes. 

As Dr. Thompson explains:

When performing a diabetic eye exam, every patient will be dilated so that we can take an expansive look at the retina and the vasculature in the back of the eye. If a patient’s blood sugar is out of control it can damage the blood vessels in the back of the eye. If diabetic retinopathy is detected, sometimes that can lead to macular edema. This would be detected by performing an OCT, which is a scan of the back of the eye kind of resembling an X-ray. It allows us to see all the layers of the retina and macula on a microscopic and more detailed level. This is a very noninvasive scan and has no side effects.

Dr. Thompson will refer you to a specialist if you show signs of macular edema. The Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical team work with your specialist to ensure you can receive essential treatment options in the form of injections and possibly laser surgery to prevent blood vessels from leaking. The treatment you receive will be based on how far your diabetic retinopathy has progressed and how swollen the macula has become. 

To learn how diabetes and other eye problems can cause your prescription to change every year, click here!

How Often Should Diabetics Get Comprehensive Eye Exams?

Staying on top of your eye health is an important part of managing your high blood sugar. That’s why it’s vital for people with diabetes to get regular eye exams as directed by their eye doctor. 

According to Dr. Thompson:

The best way to prevent vision loss and blindness is early detection. All diabetic patients should have their eyes dilated and checked once a year to make sure there are no early signs of diabetic retinopathy. The only way to keep this from occurring is to keep your blood sugar as under control as possible. If a patient’s hemoglobin A1C is above 7.0%, that vastly increases the risk of having diabetic eye disease.

Dr. Thompson knows that diabetes treatment doesn’t end after your eye exam. To ensure that you manage your diabetes and prevent vision loss, he always sends a letter to the doctor in charge of managing your diabetes (endocrinologist). This informs them of your eye health and if you need to get your blood sugar under more control.

Do you need a comprehensive eye exam in Knoxville for diabetes? Contact us today to schedule your appointment!

Diabetes can progressively affect your vision through non-proliferative retinopathy, macular edema, and proliferative diabetic retinopathy. At Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical, our optometrists perform diabetic eye exams to see if you have a form of diabetic eye disease and refer you to a specialist if so. They work hand-in-hand with your endocrinologist to monitor the progression of your diabetes and ensure that you get the treatment that you need.

Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has been serving Knoxville since 2009. Dr. Travis Thompson and Dr. Catherine Abbott specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide array of eye diseases, conditions, and problems and are committed to improving the quality of life in the Knoxville community through enhanced vision. Located at 10904 Spring Bluff Way, you can schedule an appointment online or give us a call at (865) 888-0892.

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Thompson was born and raised in Knoxville, TN. His family has lived in the Hardin Valley area since 1998, and he graduated from Karns High School in 2004. Dr. Thompson runs Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical alongside his wife, Dr. Catherine Abbott.

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"Dr. Thompson is super professional, and has some of the best 'bedside manner' that I have ever witnessed from any doctor. His staff was very helpful in assisting me with picking out regular frames and sunglasses. I’d happily recommend Dr. Thompson to anyone looking for a eye doctor."
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