Fourth grade was when my eyesight started to go downhill. By the time I was in high school, I could only make out shapes and colours without my glasses on. I had always likened life without glasses to being partially blind, which terrified me. Thankfully, my eyesight had stabled out since high school, so my optometrist wasn’t too worried about them. That is…until I was diagnosed with diabetes.
During one of my first appointments with my endocrinologist, I was bombarded by appointments to see other specialists. I had to see the podiatrist to check my feet for neuropathy. I had to pee in a cup to check my kidneys for nephropathy. I had to see the optometrist to check my eyes for retinopathy. Turns out that if your blood glucose levels are constantly running high over a long period of time, they can affect the nerves of your feet, kidneys and eyes. It’s amazing how one dud pancreas can affect so many things.
I was let off from seeing the podiatrist as the doctor checked the sensation in my feet and deemed it ok. I had already peed in the cup prior to my appointment, and the results weren’t too bad. All that was left was to get the back of my eyes checked for any sign of damage. But I didn’t make an appointment with my optometrist straight away. I was overwhelmed and scared as hell, particularly with the stories I have heard of people losing their sight and feet because of diabetes. Three months later, I went back to my endocrinologist with the lamest excuse for not getting my eyes checked – I forgot. My endocrinologist’s disapproval reminded me of Marge Simpson.
When I was next at the optometrist getting a new script for my glasses and contacts, I thought maybe I should mention something about diabetes. After mustering up enough courage, my barely audible mumble sounded something like ‘Oh, by the way, I have diabetes’. My optometrist was surprisingly calm about it all and proceeded to ask a few more questions about my diagnosis. Thankfully, they were nice enough to free up some time to do the required tests, which was probably a good thing as it didn’t give me another chance to chicken out. There was really nothing much to the whole process. It incorporated a few stinging eye drops, waiting around for the pupils to dilate and looking into the lens.
Since then I’ve been diligent in getting my eyes (and feet) checked yearly. I figured that sacrificing half an hour once a year is definitely worth the trouble. At least if anything out of the ordinary was picked up, we could work on preventing or delaying its progression. Diabetes related complications seems to be a taboo topic and it shouldn’t be used merely as a scare tactic. As people living with diabetes, we are in charge of our own health. We need to be educated about our own body and the consequences of letting diabetes control our lives. Don’t wait till it’s too late.