Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How diabetes affected my vision

I've been talking lately about finding my old medical records. There's something pretty important that happened to me that the records don't show, so I'll talk about that now.

When I talked about the symptoms of diabetes that I was experiencing before I was diagnosed, I mentioned my blurry vision. This happens when the sugars accumulate in the fluids in the eye. If you think about it, it's kind of like trying to peer through the glaze on a doughnut — ha ha!

It's a pretty well known phenomenon that when someone is diagnosed and their blood glucose is brought down, their vision suddenly improves. What happened to me, though, no one had an answer for. Eventually I came up with my own theory, but I have never been able to confirm it with a doctor.

I have had poor vision since about sixth grade. It's so bad that I can't even read a book or the computer screen without my glasses, without bringing it to within inches of my face. On the third day of my hospitalization, I suddenly realized I was having a hard time seeing through my glasses. I took them off, and was perfectly astonished when I realized I could see better without them!

In fact, my vision was so good that I stopped wearing my glasses entirely. During my follow-up with the family doctor after being released from the hospital, my vision tested at 20/25 — pretty much a miraculous improvement.

At the time, we thought that perhaps I had been developing diabetes for years, and that's why my vision had always been so bad. After several weeks, though, my near-perfect vision started to decline. Eventually, it bottomed out almost right back where it had been.

Why would my vision "fix" itself, and then go right back to being bad? None of my doctors had any answers.

Here is what I finally decided had happened: My sugars had been rising steadily for probably eight months to a year before I was diagnosed (as I remember having an unusual problem with cottonmouth as much as eight months prior to my diagnosis). This entire time, I had been staring through sugar-clouded fluid in my eyes.

Near-sightedness is caused by one's eyeballs having the wrong shape. I think the strain on my eyes during this period was so great that they actually changed shape in order to try to compensate. When my blood sugar was normalized, suddenly they were the correct shape for near-perfect vision. But without the perpetual strain forcing them to keep that shape, they slowly relaxed into their old, near-sighted shape.

Of course, I don't know for sure that this is how it happened, but it's the closest thing to an explanation than I've ever gotten from any doctor.

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