As a retina specialist, i come across many patients with Diabetic Retinopathy. I would like to tell about a few people who had an unfortunate change of their life due to diabetic retinopathy. Patients who i have seen in my OPD and who still come for follow up.
You wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that sight is one of the most important of the senses, without which u may find it very difficult to go about your daily life. But what many of us (who have not been affected by a serious sight-threatening disease) think is that it is still manageable. We had a patient about 4-5 months back who was a daily wager who mostly works at construction sites. He presented with diminution of vision in both his eyes. His was only able to read letters at 5 metres and less, that too with great difficulty. We found that both his eyes had advanced diabetic retinopathy with degeneration of the macula (the part of retina responsible for the centre part of one’s vision). There wasn’t much we could do except to halt any further deterioration by doing laser in both eyes. When I told him about his poor prognosis, he broke down. I learnt from him that he had 4 daughters and recently, owing to his vision, he had difficulty finding a job to provide for his family. We had to send him for counselling for rehabilitation. At almost 50 years of age, he had to prepare himself to learn a new skill. Not something easy even for those with good vision.
Another patient, this person who worked for us during my childhood had a similar scenario. He was a car driver by profession, and after returning from a job contract at the Gulf, due to uncontrolled diabetes, his retinopathy had damaged his vision severely. He had already underwent laser in both his eyes and despite being a retina specialist, i could hardly do anything for someone who i knew. He couldn’t drive anymore, which was his major source of income. Added to that was his nephropathy which was making things worse. His wife had to step up and take up a job to keep the family going.
It’s not just the poor who choose to be ignorant. Even the rich. Patients who are too proud to get treated, to agree that they need treatment or too busy to spare time for themselves. We have seen such patients also in our OPD. What’s the use of all those hard-earned money when you need the help of someone to even move around?
Diabetic retinopathy is not totally preventable. But it can be controlled to an extent. As mentioned in one of my previous posts, there are certain risk factors for a person to develop Diabetic retinopathy. Mainly,
1. Duration of diabetes – The longer you have diabetes, the more you are susceptible. Hence people with type 1 DM have to be extra careful.
2. Control of Blood sugar – The higher the level, the higher the chances to develop
3. Associated diseases – Kidney disease, dyslipidemia, Hypertension have all been found to complicate diabetic retinopathy
So what can be done in order to minimize the damage??
1. Regular check up – If you are a diabetic, it is imperative you get a retina check up yearly(if you are not a previously diagnosed retinopathy patient)to rule out the disease. If u r a known retinopathy patient, visit your retina specialist as frequently as you have been advised
2. Control of blood sugar – Popping the pills/stabbing yourself with insulin alone can only control diabetes to a certain extent. Watch your diet, do some walking / exercise, visit your physician regularly or get a kit and monitor your sugar levels yourself
3. Control the other associated diseases, and have a physician look it up as regularly as u get checked for diabetes.
4. Awareness – Spread the word. There are still lot of people who are unaware of this debilitating disease and that it can be treated and controlled at early stages with good visual outcome.
People who have advanced form of the disease are all not hopeless. Even restoring 1 metre of vision can be life-changing for a few. A surgery might help to rehabilitate the person. So stay aware, create awareness, have a better life.