Diabetic Retinopathy – Part 2

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As I mentioned in my post last week, my eye doctor appointment didn’t go very well.  I was seeing a blurry spot in my vision, which prompted the doctor visit and at the appointment, the doctor threw out some scary words-proliferative diabetic retinopathy, macular edema, and hemorrhages. It was a Friday afternoon and I had to schedule a follow-up appointment with a retinal specialist for the following Tuesday.

I spent all weekend worrying.  I thought I was going to need laser surgery or that I might even go blind (macular edema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness). Luckily, I have a great support system online with the Diabetes Online Community.  I reached out via Twitter and Facebook groups and a tremendous amount of people reached out to me and shared their stories with me.   They made me feel more at ease with the option of laser surgery; apparently, it’s pretty common and the people that have had it done are all doing OK, some are even better than before.

I went to the retinal specialist appointment that Tuesday with my husband and baby in tow. I was prepared to hear the worst.  However, I was pleasantly surprised!

It turns out I don’t have macular edema or proliferative retinopathy.  I do have moderate non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy and hemorrhaging in both eyes (no longer complication-free from diabetes, boo).  The hemorrhaging is what is causing my vision impairment on my right eye because the hemorrhage is near the center of my eye and the blood is causing the blurriness.  As I mentioned in the last post, diabetic retinopathy has four stages and I am at stage 2, not great but could be worse. The retinal specialist actually said that my eyes looked pretty good considering I have had diabetes for 21+ years (which I didn’t think was the most comforting because I’m only 31, if I live to 80, I’ll have 71 years of diabetic eyes so not the rosiest outlook).

He told me that there was nothing that needed to be done and that the blurry vision should clear up when the blood has dissipated.  After all of my research, I had read that the hemorrhaging only happens in stage 4, the proliferative diabetic retinopathy because that is when new blood vessels are created and they are weak because they are so new, causing them to break and bleed.  I was concerned why my blood vessels were breaking even though I was stage 2 not 4.  The doctor told me that in general, all diabetics’ eye blood vessels are sensitive so the bleeding can occur at any stage.  I was also concerned that he didn’t think I needed any laser surgery since the doctor the previous Friday thought it was necessary.  Several DOC people also told me they had laser and their issues got better because of it so I had prepared myself for the surgery option.   But he says the bleeding should go away on its own so I’ll just have to be patient.

I also asked the doctor if there was anything I could do to prevent my eyes from progressing to the next stage and he said that keeping good blood sugars would be the main preventative measure.  He said that not smoking (I don’t) and keeping my blood pressure lower (it is) will help.

It was surprising to me that I was having these issues because I have regular eye exams every year and  my eyes have always been fine.  I didn’t think that I could go from perfect eyes to stage 2-moderate non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy in one short year.  I asked the doctor about the fast advancement and he said that being pregnant could have caused the issues.  I remember thinking back to my high-risk OB doctor warning me that pregnancy could cause blindness and being pissed at him for scaring me so much, but I guess he was correct since this easily could have progressed to a worse scenario.  I asked the retinal specialist if I should avoid getting pregnant again but he said that right now I didn’t need to worry about that but that we will keep monitoring my eyes.

The doctor also took a BUNCH of photos of my eyes, which was not a very pleasant experience.  From my understanding, the photos serve as a point of reference for future visits, but also a double check that the doctor didn’t miss anything.

My eye-the center part is where the bleed is, very close to my macula!

My eye-the center part is where the bleed is, very close to my macula!

I went back for a follow-up appointment last week and everything still looked the same, but the blood was slowly going away.  I still have the blurry vision in my right eye but it’s getting better (I also think my brain is adjusting to the blurriness).  The doctor said that all should be back to normal in 1-2 months.

So all-in-all it isn’t as bad as it could have been.  My regular eye doctor definitely scared me thinking it was worse than it was so I was glad to see the retinal specialist, who realized it wasn’t as severe as the previous doctor thought.  Also, thanks for all the kind comments from my last blog post!  It was definitely a scary few days and I wish I was still complication-free but it could have been so much worse.  I’m looking forward to being able to read a book again without seeing a blurry spot!

2 thoughts on “Diabetic Retinopathy – Part 2

  1. I have definitely read stuff that indicates that pregnancy can be a stressor for vision, so you seem to be the model for that. So glad to hear that things aren’t as bad as you thought and I suspect that you will see rapid and sustained improvement. Go Mom!

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