Type 1 Diabetes and Temporary Vision Loss

Anyone who regularly reads the blog will know that, although it’s called ‘Type 1 Traveller’, I rarely actually mention Type 1 Diabetes. Well, this is generally to do with me not really having any issues whilst travelling with it. The whole point of my blog originally was to show that you can travel the world without diabetes holding you back and, well, it hasn’t.

However, recently I had a week of high blood sugars, starting in the mid-teens and ending up in the early to mid-twenties and, no matter what I did, I couldn’t bring them down. Anything higher than 10 I would consider high for myself, so these readings were a little disconcerting but, being the awkward, stubborn person I am, I didn’t tell anyone and decided I’d figure it out on my own. Then Friday came…

I headed to my local bookshop to collect a book I’d ordered previously and, having got back home to read it, noticed that the words were a little blurry- not unreadable- but just blurry enough to make me have to focus a little more than normal. This gradually got to the point where I got a headache whenever I tried to read, then over the weekend it got to the point where I couldn’t even see the words clearly; I could make them out but I couldn’t see them. This became a problem when I couldn’t read messages on my phone, read things on my laptop and, finally, when I couldn’t shave in the mirror because I couldn’t see clearly enough.

Just about readable…

Blood sugars back down to normal, I wondered, and hoped, that this was a temporary problem caused by my excessively high blood sugars the previous week. After all, unless you’re poisoned, you don’t go blind over a matter of a few days…

My long distance vision was perfect; I could still drive my bike across Sai Gon and swerve out of the way of oncoming traffic, but I couldn’t read my students’ handwriting at school (even whilst squinting). Imagine your eyes are trying to focus on something right in front of them, and you feel that strange straining feeling-that’s what it was like constantly. So, having no choice, I emailed my endo and asked if it was, as I thought, temporary. Thankfully it was, so after buying some non-prescription, made to measure glasses, I carried on as normal, wearing them when needed.

The words can be made out but it’s unreadable…

Within about 10 days, after my eyesight got slightly worse, my eyes began to get better and after a few days they were back to normal: panic over. It turns out that when you have uncharacteristically high blood sugars for a while, the lens inside the eye swells, causing light to be refracted to the wrong part of the eye, ultimately causing blurriness. However, once blood sugars are back in range, you just need to wait for the swelling to go down, and everything should be back to normal. It’s times like these that you really value what you have; I knew I didn’t have any permanent damage as I know the symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy, but it was worrying nonetheless, even if only temporary…

Has anyone had any similar issues with Type 1 Diabetes? What did you do about it?

-Loui

6 thoughts on “Type 1 Diabetes and Temporary Vision Loss

  1. Keep glucose under control! Easy to say, especially for somebody not Type 1, but not always easy to accomplish, I know!! But I think it is that simple: keep glucose under control!!! Stay well!!!

    • Yeah it’s easier said than done. My blood glucose is usually pretty good but just had a week of bad spikes. They’re back to normal now.

  2. Often happens to me at high altitude above 4000m or so (I’m already partially sighted due to retinopathy, so getting more blurry is *really* bad!). Nothing you can do except try not to have uncontrolled blood sugars (in your case) and wait for things to come back to normal. It’s pretty standard – after all one of the signs of having diabetes is blurry vision!

    • It’s all back to normal now, but nearly two weeks of poor vision was scary enough! I just need to figure out what caused the blood sugar spikes as I don’t recall eating or doing anything differently than normal…

  3. Yes had type one for over 50 years now, now on a pump but in the earlier days when control was more difficult I could tell when my sugars were high as my vision would deteriorate with the blurring as you describe. This was explained both by my optician and by my consultant, the remedy, maintain the best control you can manage !!!

    • Hey Howard, yeah managing blood glucose is the best way to deal with these things, but it was the first time it’d happened so I got a little worried. It’s all fine now but was a bit of a scare!

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