Diabetic Retinopathy Is Officially On The Radar

Eye Exam

Since my diagnosis date 31 years ago, I’ve had this little dark cloud that follows me.  Most days I forget it’s there or meditate to leave it behind, but it recently returned. In a recent post, Does Diabetes Limit Your Career Path, I mention a message we received from a lovely woman suffering from diabetic retinopathy (DR).  Her message really hit home.

Three days after writing Does Diabetes Limit Your Career Path, Ryan and I had our eyes tested by Dr. Jacob T. Smith, of Classic Vision. We had a lengthy discussion and reviewed a few images of DR and other diabetes related complications found in the eye. Post discussion, I jump in the hot seat and images were taken of both of my eyes. Ryan grabbed his camera to film Dr. Smith’s comments, which started with something like, “Would you like me to sugar coat the situation?

The dark cloud enters and the rest of my appointment is a blur, no pun intended. I heard “wha, wha wha” while holding back tears. Dr. Smith revealed a few spots on my right eye that were signs of diabetes retinopathy. We discussed other causes; stress (off the charts lately) and high blood pressure (I’ve forgotten to take my meds a few times this month). He was incredibly kind and requested a follow up appointment in about 8 weeks to see if the situation had improved.

Dr. Smith reached out to a retinal specialist and below are a few items all people living with Type 1 diabetes should know.

  • The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) trial showed that tightened blood glucose reduced the development of DR by 76% and reduced progression of retinopathy by 80%.  It also showed that reducing your HbA1C by only 10% resulted in a reduced risk for progression by 45%.
  • DR is the leading cause of blindness in the US in individuals less than 55.
  • Type 1 = Minimal risk for DR until 5 years after diagnosis.  Retinopathy often present up to 50% after 10 years of diagnosis. After 15 years, 95% show some retinopathy. 40% have PDR by 25 years.  Age of dx is important. DR is very rare prior to puberty.
  • Type 2 = Diagnosis is often made late.  Therefore, many present with DR.
“I recommend optimizing control of BS,BP, and lipids as all 3 contribute to vascular disease. I use many analogies when describing the effects of diabetes on the retina to my patients. Most of the analogies are used to explain treatment strategies and how they work. For example, I describe neovascularization as an attempt to restore blood flow from small vessel damage from diabetes. Neovascularization requires PRP laser treatment. I relate this process to weeds requiring Round Up herbicide treatment. The neovascularization (weeds) can be expected to regress after treatment. My farmers really appreciate this analogy. I hope this helps.” – Jacob T. Smith O.D.
After a few days of festering and many tears shed, I released my anger and told the dark cloud to take a hike. I WILL have a positive attitude, take my blood pressure meds regularly, meditate daily and do my best to not stress over things that don’t matter.  +++ Thoughts & Vibes.

6 thoughts on “Diabetic Retinopathy Is Officially On The Radar

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