Confronting diabetic retinopathy head-on

By Chelcie Rice, advised to Hallie Levine

I discovered that I had diabetic retinopathy in 2004. Sadly, my prognosis got here just a little too late and I misplaced many of the imaginative and prescient in my proper eye. Immediately, once I do advocacy, I stress how vital it’s to maintain updated along with your eye exams. It might actually save your eyesight. This is what I need different folks with diabetic retinopathy to know.

Do not blame your self.

After I was recognized, I had plenty of self-loathing. I had observed signs months earlier, once I bent down to select one thing up and observed black jellyfish-like streaks working down my left eye. I went to an area eyewear retailer for an eye fixed examination with an optometrist, who advised me I wanted to see a retina specialist.

Sadly, I did not have medical insurance on the time, so I postponed. Finally, my signs acquired so dangerous that I had no selection. I wanted a vitrectomy, which is surgical procedure the place the surgeon makes a small incision within the eye to empty blood from the center of the attention and take away scar tissue that’s pulling on the retina. A yr later, I needed to endure the identical process on my proper eye, but it surely was too late. My retina utterly indifferent and I misplaced most of my imaginative and prescient.

I blamed myself, which appears ridiculous now. It wasn’t my fault that I could not afford to pay for my medical care. However for these first few years after my eye surgical procedures, I lived in concern of it taking place once more. If I misplaced sight in my left eye, I might be almost blind. This stress is sort of inconceivable to bear. You may’t stay your life on pins and needles. I needed to be taught to maneuver ahead. One of many methods I did that was to start out taking my diabetes extra critically than I used to. I knew that if I had higher blood sugar management, I might be much less prone to produce other well being issues, together with imaginative and prescient loss.

You may nonetheless stay your life.

Happily, I can proceed to do most every day actions, with some modifications. Though I can not learn with my proper eye, my imaginative and prescient continues to be ok to drive and go to my day job at a credit score union. My left eye is 20/20, however my proper eye solely has about 10% imaginative and prescient. Which means once I have a look at one thing to my proper, it’s totally blurry, a lot in order that I really feel like I am wanting by means of a distorted mirror. There are additionally massive patches of darkish spots. I strive to not put myself in positions the place I’ve to drive at night time, and once I do, I repeat the route time and again throughout the day so I do know precisely the place I am going.

It took me some time to comprehend the truth that I’ve a incapacity and as such I’m entitled to sure work-related lodging beneath the Individuals with Disabilities Act. I have been upfront with employers about my imaginative and prescient, and my present job has had many modifications – for instance, an enormous display screen for my pc so I can develop my work.

A couple of months in the past I had corneal erosion in my left eye. That is when the layer of cells on the floor of your cornea loosens. It is vitally painful and may make your imaginative and prescient very blurry. My signs had been all the time worse within the morning, so I could not work for a couple of hours. However because it was associated to my diabetes, I simply stuffed out some types for my employer and it wasn’t counted in opposition to me. Do not be afraid to ask for these lodging. It’s your authorized proper to have them.

It helps to be open.

I am a comic, and for a very long time I questioned what to inform my viewers about each my diabetes and my diabetic retinopathy. However a couple of years in the past, I noticed one other comic who resides with most cancers discuss his illness on stage. He advised me later that it was my accountability to speak about my diabetes and my imaginative and prescient since you by no means know who you are going to discuss to. He’s proper. After my reveals, folks come to see me and likewise inform me their private tales.

It additionally helps alleviate some tough instances. Just like the time in the course of my quantity, I walked too near the sting of the stage and almost fell. It was solely about an 8 inch drop, however whenever you’re almost blind in a single eye, it is actually scary! I additionally all the time attempt to match some kind of diabetes joke into my act. I even joked about my retina surgical procedures. It is a strategy to educate folks about diabetic retinopathy with out them even realizing it.

Get that annual eye examination!

When you have got diabetes, you want to keep on prime of all of your medical care. You see your endocrinologist each 3 months, your dentist a minimum of twice a yr and the foot and eye specialists a minimum of annually. In any other case, small issues can shortly turn into large ones.

You additionally must pay shut consideration to what’s taking place along with your eyes. Folks with diabetic retinopathy usually see brown spots, or floaters, of their sight view. I do know all my floats nicely. But when I see one thing new, I am very cautious. If it would not go away after a couple of days, I see my eye physician. After two surgical scares, I am not going to take any extra dangers.

And bear in mind, if you happen to ever really feel the necessity to blame your self about your imaginative and prescient, bear in mind: you did not do it, diabetes did. Each morning I get up, get away from bed, give myself time to see my imaginative and prescient clear up, and take one other day. That is all we will do as folks with diabetes. We should face all our challenges head on and decide to staying wholesome.

Keep conscious of your physique, together with modifications in your imaginative and prescient, then get on the market and stay your finest life. I am nonetheless serious about the concept of ​​using a motorbike, for instance. I’ve seen folks with eye patches using them, so why not? I could not be capable of cross the nation on a Harley, however I can a minimum of trip round city. Every thing is feasible. Do not let your diabetic retinopathy maintain you again.