By: Meagan Esler
One night last week I was awakened by the sound of my dogs barking, and I jumped out of bed to check for intruders. As I ran down the hallway, I realized that something was wrong with my right eye: It had an image, like someone had flashed a bright light into it. I blinked wildly, trying to regain my normal vision, but the image remained. As I sat on the couch after checking the house, I was scared to death, not of intruders, but of the thought that diabetes had finally invaded my eyes. The image soon subsided, but I made an appointment with a retina specialist the next morning and braced myself for the worst.
I should mention that I have several eye issues unrelated to diabetes. I am extremely nearsighted, and I developed a couple of retina holes in the past that had to be laser-sealed. I also have ocular hypertension and take drops to keep the pressure in my eyes from rising too high. Throughout my seventeen years with diabetes, however, I’ve been very lucky to show no signs of diabetic retinopathy. I prayed that this was still the case.
I told the doctor’s assistant just that as I was being examined. As he looked into my eyes, he tried to calm me down. “Breathe,” he said over and over. “We’re here to help you, not hurt you.” I tried to breathe, but my mind kept racing. The last thing I needed was another eye problem to increase my chances of some day losing my vision. The technician reminded me in a soothing voice that I should be proud of the fact that I am “a seventeen-year diabetes warrior.” With those words, I calmed down and even began smiling a little. He was right. I am strong, and I would deal with whatever news was coming my way.
After examining my eyes, the retina specialist led with the good news: I had absolutely no signs of diabetic retinopathy. He added that this is rare after seventeen years with diabetes. He went on to say that I had a new hole in my left retina that needed to be sealed with a laser the next day. It struck me as funny that the image had actually been in my right eye, but my right eye was perfectly fine. I’ve had laser sealing before, and it wasn’t a big deal. I made the appointment and got it done the very next morning.
Those of us with diabetes constantly hear of the risk of losing our sight. It’s important to make regular appointments to get your eyes checked because often there are no symptoms until the vision issues become serious. If something in your vision does change, contact your doctor immediately. Many treatments are painless and only a minor inconvenience. I was able to go out to lunch shortly after my laser procedure and had only blurry vision to complain of. I’ll embrace every little diabetes triumph along this journey with a happy heart. I hope to have many more years of good news.