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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious condition caused  from the body’s inability to produce or effectively use insulin. This hormone  controls the amount of blood glucose (sugar) in the body.

Individuals with diabetes are prone to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves. This physiological change can often be detected in the eye.

Symptoms of diabetes: 

Signs and symptoms of diabetes include, but are not limited to:

     • Blurred vision
     • Unusual thirst
     • Frequent urination
     • Weight change (gain or loss)
     • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
     • Frequent or recurring infections
     • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
     • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet

How does diabetes affect the eyes?

Diabetes can seriously affect your eyes, causing temporary or permanent vision loss. That is why annual eye exams are critical for people living with diabetes, and are covered by OHIP once a year regardless of age. 

An eye exam can detect the presence of diabetes, as well diabetes-related eye problems such as:   

Diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels inside your eye. This results in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes that can result in bleeding inside the eye and loss of vision. 

Cataracts cause glare and cloudy vision due to the clouding of the lens. Cataracts can require changes to your glasses or surgical removal. Those with diabetes tend to get cataracts earlier in life.

Decreased corneal sensitivity  
Diabetes can damage the nerve endings of the cornea (the clear dome-shaped covering the front of the eye).  This can lessen the cornea’s ability to respond to stimulation, such as a foreign body. Wounds are typically slower to heal and the eye is more susceptible to infections and scarring.

Other vision problems
- Fluctuating or blurring of vision
- Occasional double vision 
- Loss of visual field

With only a light and a lens, your eye doctor can view blood vessels at the back of your eye. Changes in the appearance of these blood vessels are early signs of any diabetic damage in the rest of the body. This is why annual exams are important to keep both you and your eyes healthy long term. 

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