Blurry Vision and Other Symptoms of Diabetes

Blurry vision is a common symptom of diabetes.  Other diabetic symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and fatigue.  Most of the symptoms are due to the lack of insulin which secondarily allows the sugar levels to sky rocket out of control.  This sets up sugar gradients that cause imbalances in water distribution in the body and in different organs.

One note, the blurry vision as a symptom of diabetes is not caused by the same mechanism as blurry vision from diabetic retinopathy.

“Osmolarity” – Water Follows Sugar

The fancy term for this concept is “osmolarity.”  One way to think of osmolarity is that sugar attracts water, or, water goes where the sugar goes.

Insulin Takes Sugar From the Blood and Delivers it to Your Cells

When we eat, food is broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.  The sugars, the little energy units that serve as fuel for our cells, can not get into the cells without insulin.  Stated another way, insulin lowers blood sugar.

When the supply of insulin is insufficient, as in diabetes, sugar levels in the blood rise.  Remember the law of osmolarity, if the sugar stays in the blood, it draws water out and away from your cells and into the bloodstream.

Your body becomes dehydrated as the water is drawn into the blood stream.  This is a relative increase in the fluid volume of the blood, the kidneys then make more…urine.  The relative dehydration also explains the excessive thirst.

The frequent urination, and especially, frequent urination at night, are very common symptoms of diabetes.  Since the high sugar levels are constantly drawing water out from the cells, the body is constantly dehydrated causing extreme thirst.

Weight Loss

There are two reasons for the weight loss.  One cause is the loss of  water weight caused by the frequent urination.  This is similar to a wrestler trying to “make weight” by becoming dehydrated.  The second reason for weigh loss is the loss of body fat and muscle.

The body uses sugars, fat and then muscle, in that order, for energy sources.  If there is insufficient insulin, sugar can not be utilized as an energy source and the body then starts to burn fat and muscle, ergo, you lose weight.

Blurry Vision

This explanation is a bit more involved, but bare with me.

Sugar enters the natural lens in the eye.  Sugars are changed to “sorbitol” inside the lens.  Sorbitol can not exit the lens as easy as sugar, but sorbitol, too,  like sugar, attracts water.

The end result?  The lens takes on water and changes it’s focusing powers …causing blurry vision.  Again, this is distinct from the vision changes associated with diabetic retinopathy, a separate problem.

Correcting Blood Sugar

Taking insuling or oral medications causes the blood sugar to decrease.  The cells of your body can now retain water, the dehydration ceases and the excessive thirst and frequent urination disappear.

Sugar can now be metabolized by the cells, preserving fat and muscle, and the weight loss and energy returns.

As the sorbitol decreases in the lens, the relative water content decreases, and the  normal focusing power of the lens returns…vision improves!  This is why diabetics should only get examined for glasses when the sugar is at usual levels and controlled.

What Does This Mean?  There are two types of vision “loss” from diabetes.  The blurry vision as a symptom is temporary and reversible.  The second may develop long after the diagnosis if diabetes is made.  Vision loss, the principle “focus” of this blog, from diabetic retinopathy is less reversible and is a result of a disease rather than a symptom.

So, blurry vision may be a sign of high sugar.  If diabetic, you may develop the disease, diabetic retinopathy.

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Randall V. Wong, M.D.

Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

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***This post is for information purposes only. This posting does not offer legal or medical advice, so nothing in it should be construed as legal or medical advice. The information on this blog/post is only offered for informational purposes. You shouldn’t act or rely on anything in this blog or posting or use it as a substitute for legal/medical advice from a licensed professional. The content of this posting may quickly become outdated, especially due to the nature of the topics covered, which are constantly evolving. The materials and information on this posting/blog are not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or timely. Nothing in this posting/blog and nothing you or I do creates a doctor-patient relationship between you and the blog; between you and me; or between you and Randall Wong, M.D. or RetinaEyeDoctor.com. Even if you try to contact me through the blog or post a comment on the blog you are still not creating a doctor-patient relationship. Although, I am a doctor, I’m not YOUR doctor until and unless there is a written agreement specifically providing for a doctor-patient relationship.***

Comments

  1. cameron bradfield says:

    your info was very helpful in clarifying the causes and effects of unrelated issues. so to my point, im a college student ive been having some unusual symptoms that appear to point either to lyme disease or diabetes something that runs in my family. i do in fact believe i have diabetes i cannot however see a dr to prove my theory. here is the run down. at a emergency room visit for a sever panic attack sometimes associated with lyme disease i tested high on my blood sugar not to to high but enough to be pointed out to me. im 210 pounds considered obese with a bmi of 31 i dont feel im too large really bmi is a little off from time to time because i look slightly out of shape with some mild abdominal fat retention. anyways. other symptoms are blurred or “snow vision” mostly lasting for a few minutes. now this is more commonly associated with migrains however in all instances of blurred vision there is no migrain. i dont urinate that often however i dont drink enough water. i do carry a water bottle most the day but by the time i return home i generaly stop drinking water untell dinner and then not again tell the next day. but when i do urinate regularly i notice the sickly sweet smell of sugar waisting in my urine. also i have alota fatigue most of the day every day. im diagnosed as bipolar though with insomnia and sever add. i have a jumble of symptoms to flabbergast the best of doctors. if u could return this comment to my email bradfieldcameron@yahoo.com id appreciate your input. do bear in mind i can likely not afford a visit to any doctor let alone a specialist. as a side note i suppose i should mention my excessive use of marijuana for the past year and a half possibly 2 years now that has stopped completely recently due to unrelated oral issues. the panic has subsided somewhat since this time and is sometime thought to be brought on by this excessive use. one last not is i sometimes have burning/ stabbing mild pain in my left side under my ribs and when this occurs sever anxiety soon follows with near to full on fienting. thank you in advance for your help and the info i have already gathered

  2. very good …i understand it easily… thnk u vry mch…

  3. mechanism of action of oral hypoglycemic agents.pls give me a hint…

  4. Dear Giri,

    You are welcome.

    r

  5. Giri,

    Induce the pancreas to improve insulin production on demand.

    r

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