Going through Diabetic Retinopathy Head-On

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By Chelcie Rice, as instructed to Hallie Levine

I discovered I had diabetic retinopathy in 2004. Sadly, my prognosis got here a little bit too late, and I misplaced many of the imaginative and prescient in my proper eye. At this time, once I do advocacy work, I stress how vital it’s to remain updated in your eye exams. It may save your sight, actually. Right here’s what I need others with diabetic retinopathy to know.

Don’t blame your self.

After I was identified, I had lots of self-loathing. I’d observed signs months earlier, once I bent over to choose one thing up and observed black jellyfish-like streaks that drizzled down my left eye. I went to a neighborhood eyeglass store for a watch examination from an optometrist, who instructed me I wanted to see a retina specialist.

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Sadly, I didn’t have medical health insurance on the time, so I put it off. Ultimately, my signs obtained so unhealthy that I had no selection. I wanted a vitrectomy, which is a surgical process the place the surgeon makes a tiny incision in your eye to empty blood from the center of the attention and take away scar tissue that tugs on the retina. A yr later, I needed to have the identical process finished on my proper eye, but it surely was too late. My retina fully indifferent, and I misplaced most of my imaginative and prescient.

I blamed myself, which appears ridiculous now. It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t afford to pay for my medical care. However for these first few years after my eye surgical procedures, I lived within the concern of it occurring once more. If I misplaced the imaginative and prescient in my left eye, I’d be just about left blind. That stress is sort of not possible to hold. You may’t stay your life on pins and needles. I needed to be taught to push ahead. One of many methods I did that was to start taking my diabetes extra severely than I had in years previous. I knew that if I obtained my blood sugars below higher management, I’d have much less threat of different well being problems, together with lack of imaginative and prescient. 

You may nonetheless stay your life.

Fortunately, I can proceed to do most day-to-day actions, with some modifications. Whereas I can not learn with my proper eye, my imaginative and prescient remains to be ok that I can 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% of its imaginative and prescient. Which means once I have a look at one thing on my proper, it’s very blurry, a lot in order that it’s like trying by means of a distorted mirror. There are additionally giant 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 apply the route time and again throughout daytime so I do know precisely the place I’m going.

It took me some time to wrap my head round the truth that I’ve a incapacity and as such, am entitled to sure work-related lodging by means of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. I’ve been up-front with employers about my imaginative and prescient, and my present job has offered an excessive amount of modifications — for instance, a big monitor for my laptop so I can amplify my work.

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

It helps to be open.

I’m a comic, and for a very long time I grappled with how a lot to inform my viewers about each my diabetes and my diabetic retinopathy.  However just a few years in the past, I watched one other comic who lives with most cancers open up about his illness on stage. He instructed me later that it was my accountability to speak about my diabetes and my imaginative and prescient since you by no means know whom you’ll attain. He’s proper. After my exhibits, folks will come as much as me and inform me their private tales as properly.

It helps clean over some awkward moments too. Just like the time in the course of my act I walked too near the sting of the stage and virtually fell off.  It was solely about an 8-inch drop, however once you’re virtually blind in a single eye, that’s actually scary! I additionally all the time attempt to work some kind of diabetes joke into my act. I’ve even joked about my retina surgical procedures. It’s a technique to educate folks about diabetic retinopathy with out them even realizing it.

Get that annual eye examination!

When you could have diabetes, you’ve got to remain on high of all of your medical care. You see your endocrinologist each 3 months, your dentist no less than twice a yr, and foot and eye specialists no less than yearly. In any other case, little issues can change into large ones, quick.

You additionally must pay shut consideration to what’s happening along with your eyes. Folks with diabetic retinopathy usually see darkish spots, or floaters, of their visual field. I do know all of my floaters properly. But when I see one thing new, I pay shut consideration. If it doesn’t depart after a few days, I see my eye physician. After two surgical procedure scares, I’m not going to take any extra possibilities.  

And bear in mind, in case you ever really feel the necessity to beat your self up about your imaginative and prescient, remind your self: you didn’t do that, diabetes did. Each morning, I get up, get off the bed, give myself time for my imaginative and prescient to clear, and tackle one other day. That’s all we as folks with diabetes can do. We have to meet all our challenges head-on and decide to staying heathy.

Keep conscious of your physique — together with modifications along with your imaginative and prescient — after which exit and stay your finest life. I’m nonetheless tossing across the thought of driving a motorbike, for instance. I’ve seen folks with eye patches journey them, so why not? I won’t have the ability to journey throughout the nation on a Harley, however I can no less than take a spin round city. Something’s potential. Don’t let your diabetic retinopathy maintain you again.

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