November is Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy Awareness Month. It has special significance to GWSVI because as eye doctors, we see the effects of diabetes on our patients’ vision and one of our team has lived with diabetes for over 20 years.
Craig is Director of Co-Management for GWSVI and recently has experienced first hand how Diabetic Retinopathy can affect vision. He says, “Diabetes is a constant balancing act, lows and highs based on insulin intake, diet and exercise. Highs can create long-term complications and affect your mood and energy levels.Lows are very scary and come on very suddenly. I have had severe diabetic retinopathy in my right eye. It was diagnosed last October. I have had three retinal surgeries and a premature cataract surgery since then. My vision in my right eye is improving slowly but surely.”
When asked about advice for individuals living with diabetes, he says, “There is support out there, you are not alone. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and a group Taking Care of Your Diabetes (TCOYD), are excellent support systems. My diabetes care has improved significantly with the use of the Dexcom CGM, a monitor that takes Blood Glucose readings every 5 minutes. It has high and low alerts, that can help keep a diabetic on track.”
Craig, along with GWSVI and the San Diego County Optometric Society have helped support the ADA by raising funds for Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes, an annual fundraising walk. Craig has been the Co-Team Leader for the last five years. Together we have raised over $25,000 for diabetes research.
Only 5% of people with diabetes in the United States have Type 1 diabetes. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and is the result of the body not producing insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. Type 1 diabetes can be treated with insulin therapy. Type 2 diabetes is found in individuals whose body does not use insulin properly, resulting in higher than normal blood glucose levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, “At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.”
Vision risks for diabetics include a higher rate of blindness than non-diabetics, but most people with diabetes have only minor problems. Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes. The ADA provides a thorough discussion of vision complications for diabetics.