Diabetic Retinopathy

I guess you can say that retinopathy is one of those dreaded words for a diabetic.  This description is from the NIH’s National Eye Institute:

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.

In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.

In 1997 and 1998, I was treated for retinopathy.  Mine started as a bleed in the eye.  It was over the weekend and I was in the shower.  I saw something black kind of dancing around in front of me and at first, I thought it was a spider.  When it moved with me, I realized that it was not a spider.  I immediately called my eye doctor.  His answering service had a different eye doctor call me back so I went to see that doctor.  He told me what it was and I was supposed to call my regular eye doctor on Monday.

On Monday, I called my regular eye doctor and went to see him.  He sent me to Hershey Medical Center to have some pictures taken of my eye after being injected with a dye.  He also scheduled the first of many laser surgeries.  Besides problems with the leaking blood vessels, I also had macular edema, which is swelling to the retina so I would be having two different types of laser surgery.  I also needed treatment in both eyes.

The worst part of the laser surgery for me was they inject something into the socket of your eye to numb it.  When he explained it to me in his office, he said inject something into my cheek.  When I was at the hospital sitting in the waiting room, I could hear him ask for a retinal syringe and I knew I was in trouble.  The nurse held my head while he injected it.  The nurse always took blood pressure before and after the laser surgery.  One time she commented about how much lower mine was after the laser surgery – I said that was because once I got the shot over with, the rest was a piece of cake!

My eyes went thru a lot of changes during that period.  It seemed like they would be getting better for a little bit and then he would do more surgery and set me back some.  One time I was not able to drive for a couple weeks.  Fortunately, my cousin & his wife lived near me and she drove past my office to get to her job so I was able to get a ride with her.  I had to change my hours to her schedule, but at least I was able to get to work.  One particular time, I had driven to work on a day we were having a lot of snow on top a ton that we had the weekend before.  Someone from my office drove me to the hospital and my cousin picked me up.  My car sat at the office for a couple weeks and the snow was starting to melt and instead of my car looking like it was pulled up to the building, it looked like it was in the middle of a space.  I couldn’t even move the car in the parking lot so someone I worked with moved the car for me.  It impacted my job because I frequently went to client’s offices and was not able to do that.  Although one client did come pick me up to get me there.

When it was all said and done, I still did not need glasses to read but I needed them for distance.  I literally just kept my glasses in my car because that was the only time I used them.

I have not had any problems with retinopathy since then.  When I had cataracts (that hopefully will be Monday’s article) and was reading up on that, I did read that eggs are good for your retinas.  I used to always have eggs for breakfast and had stopped a couple years before the retinopathy and started again after that.  Now that I know eggs are good for retinas, I will never stop eating them again!

Recently, there was an article published about the Joslin medalists.  I am only putting part of the article here but will put the link if you want to read the full article.  It seems like 17 years is the magic number.  In a few more months, I will have hit my 13 year mark so if I can make it another 4 years without problems, I should be home free!

http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/AAO/22856

Records of these visits indicated that worsening of retinopathy was almost entirely confined to the first 17 years of ophthalmic follow-up, according to Sun.

She and her colleagues found that of 94 eyes in the cohort that did not develop proliferative disease, about 60% didn’t worsen at all and of the remainder that did, only one showed worsening after the first 17 years.

On the other hand, of 54 eyes that eventually did develop proliferative disease, progression occurred early. More than 90% showed worsening disease within 20 years.
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