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When It Comes to Diabetes, the Eyes Have It

dog sleeping with eyeglasses on his noseThe news came as a shock. Even with well-controlled diabetes and a normal A1C, my doctor diagnosed the beginnings of diabetic retinopathy. (Photo: StockSnap,Lisa Fotios)

For followers of this blog—and I’ve learned I have three or four—you are used to my mostly cheery reports on how we folks with diabetes can address our “Weighty Issues.” Well, this one is important, I believe, but may not be cheery.

I’m the one who has taken diabetes by the proverbial horns, sent it packing, fought the battle and considered myself on a winning streak.  I lost the excess weight and have maintained the loss for an extended period of time, surprising and impressing my doctors and myself. My recent doctor visit revealed a normal A1C as well as a variety of other encouraging test results.  

I’m ahead of the game, I said to myself.  Hurray for me.

Until yesterday. It was time for my husband’s annual eye exam, so I made an appointment for myself as well and we arrived bright and early for our joint visits. My healthy-as-a-horse husband got the expected “keep doing what you’re doing” advice and was sent on his merry way. My exam, however, did not have the same happy ending.

I was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, described by the National Eye Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) as follows: Diabetic retinopathy involves changes to retinal blood vessels that can cause them to bleed or leak fluid, distorting vision. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.                  

Oh swell. I was at once worried and scared, responding to the surprise of the discovery and the lack of knowledge about it. Then I got mad.

The doctor, an ophthalmologist, said, “You have to get your diabetes under control.” I responded, “I’ve done that.” His response was, “Obviously not very well.” 

How Could It Be?

Are you kidding me? That’s whenI went from sad to mad. I’ve lost more than a hundred pounds, brought my A1C down from 8 to a solid 6 (my internist, who is also his patient, was practically dancing a jig at my last appointment), work out five days a week, eat right, blah, blah, blah…and he’s blaming me?  This guy wants me to cut fat and carbs from my diet. I live on 1200 calories a day as it is, just what would he like me to cut?

Because my husband was in the room, I didn’t jump down the doctor’s throat. I did not remind him that he’s known about my diabetes for years but has never once, until that day, taken the pictures that would reveal a diabetic condition. I did not take him to task for placing the blame squarely on me. I did not suggest he shinny up a tree or perform any anatomically-impossible acts. 

Look, he’s a nice guy and I know he was upset by his discovery. I know he was worried.  He gets one more chance.

I spent some time that afternoon with my surgeon, a knowledgeable guy and a good friend. He took the time to tell me what some of the treatments are. His guess is that the condition had been brewing for years, only now just starting to affect my vision. He put everything into perspective when he asked, “Aren’t you glad you took care of addressing your diabetes when you did? You could be in far worse shape than you are and you would be far less able to start the process now and enjoy the success you’ve attained.” I knew I liked this guy for a reason.

So my lesson for the day is this (oh, you knew this was coming, didn’t you?): Don’t mess around with blood sugar levels that are out of whack. Don’t ignore symptoms as they arise from time to time. Pay attention to your health—every single day. And for God’s sake, get your eyes checked every year and make sure they take pictures! Diabetes is not the end of the world, but it does require your attention and your vigilance—every single doggone day.

I’d say it’s worth the trouble…wouldn’t you?

Stay well…see you next time!

 

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