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Living with Diabetes

“I didn't think it would happen to me” – Living with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy

10/19/2021 by mySugr

“I didn't think it would happen to me” – Living with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy

If you’re living with diabetes, you’ve probably heard the term diabetic eye disease, which refers to a group of eye conditions that can affect people with diabetes, such as diabetic retinopathy. We spoke to our mySugr colleague, Basak, who lives with type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy around 5 years ago.

Portrait of Basak
1. Can you tell us a bit about your diabetes? When were you diagnosed? 

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in early 1996, when I was 7 years old.

2. Was eye health something that was discussed with you from the beginning? Were you educated on the subject before?

Absolutely. Eye health and potential complications related to diabetes were part of my medical examinations. My diabetologist made sure that the necessary eye check ups were done from the beginning. The importance of keeping my blood sugar levels in range and how this can help to reduce complications were subjects I knew from the beginning of my diabetes journey. 

Nevertheless, especially during my early 20s I had struggles keeping up with my therapy and there were times where my A1c levels would go up to 11. Those poorly managed times affected my eyes without me noticing and resulted in being diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy.

3. Why should people living with diabetes be careful with their eyes?

In the early stages of diabetes retinopathy, eyesight is not affected, which makes it easier for complications to go unnoticed. If left untreated, it can cause loss of vision. Therefore, it is highly important to get your eyes checked regularly.

4. Was diabetes and eye health ever connected with a feeling of guilt for you?

Once I started to see the signs of retinal detachment, I immediately felt guilty. I knew I brought this complication upon myself by not managing my diabetes well during my early 20s. 

5. Is eye health a big concern for you?

My eye health is very critical to me. Following my diabetic retinopathy diagnosis, it became a worry as well. Being in the hands of doctors who are experienced in diabetic retinopathy, providing me with explanations on the prognosis and possible treatments made my worries go away.

6. How would you motivate fellow diabuddies to stay on top of their eye health? Do you have any tips when it comes to looking after your eyes as a person with diabetes?

My motivation comes from my will to keep my vision as sharp as possible. As simple as it is, scheduling appointments with your eye doctor at least once a year does the trick so that they can spot any problem early on and treat it. 

7. What do you think is the most important thing to know about eye health for people with diabetes?

I would urge everyone not to assume “it won't happen to me.” Whenever you notice a change in your eyesight or vision, go ahead and schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. By the time you begin to experience symptoms, it’s possible that the disease has already caused irreversible damage. 

The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.

Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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