Uncontrolled diabetes causes a host of problems in the body, one of which is eye problems or loss of sight. The blood vessels in the eyes are the smallest in the entire body and are susceptible to many vascular problems. When someone has high blood sugars that are not kept within normal ranges of between 80 and 100 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL (fasting levels), the vessels in the eyes can become damaged.
High blood sugars cause the lens in the eyes to swell, which then changes the shape of the lens and the ability to see. Damage to your eyes does not happen because you have one high sugar meal, it happens when blood sugar levels are not controlled for months. Once blood sugar levels are within normal range it will still take at least three months for your eyes to be able to heal. The reason it takes three months is because when your blood sugars are high there is extra glucose floating around in the blood. The extra glucose likes to bind to red blood cells and once they are bound they will not detach from the red blood cells for the rest of the red blood cell’s life. The glucose attaching to the red blood cell prevents the red blood cell from doing its job of carrying oxygen to any cells. It takes three months for all the red blood cells that have glucose attached to die and be replaced with new red blood cells before the eyes or other organs can really start the healing process and begin functioning more normally again.
The three most common eye problems that develop from diabetes issues are cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, cataracts cause a clouding of the lens of the eye, which in turn causes blurry vision. Cataracts can happen to anyone in the population but people with diabetes tend to get cataracts at an earlier age and the disease progresses more quickly than someone who doesn’t have diabetes.
Glaucoma is a disease where the pressure in the eye causes damage to the vessels and the nerves. High blood sugars can cause the vessels to become damaged more quickly or sooner creating vision problems again.