For people living with diabetes, managing their condition means constantly thinking about how to avoid potential complications. Upon diagnosis, many patients may understand well-known risks of diabetes like nerve issues, cardiovascular disease or kidney damage. But there’s one complication that many are unaware of: vision loss from diabetic eye disease.
This was the case for Dave, a 74 year-old retired from his manufacturing IT career and living in Missouri. He is one of the nearly 750,000 people in the U.S. living with diabetic macular edema (DME)1, a common complication of diabetes that causes damage to the retina and macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp central vision.
For Dave, living with Type 1 diabetes and DME has been a learning experience. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 28 after an extreme and abrupt period of weight loss. Following his diagnosis, he began the life-long journey of controlling his diabetes through insulin, diet and exercise.
As he reached his 60s, Dave started experiencing vision issues – floaters and spots – a possible symptom of the progression of diabetes into DME. So he saw his opthamologist, Dr. Heeral Shah, who did retinal imaging and diagnosed him with DME. “I was surprised to learn about vision loss as a complication of diabetes,” he recalls. Since then, Dave has had injections of medicine into his eyes, and his vision has mostly returned to how it used to be.
I was surprised to learn about vision loss as a complication of diabetes.
After years of seeing Dr. Shah, Dave has some advice for other people living with diabetes. “Eye problems can take years to develop. You need to focus on the day-to-day disease management, of course – but you can’t put off long-term potential issues,” Dave says.
Dr. Shah agrees. “The best way for diabetes patients like Dave to manage vision-related complications starts with annual, comprehensive dilated eye exams that detect the disease early on for people with diabetes,” she says. “If ophthalmologist appointments are missed, it can lead to undertreatment and progression of the underlying diabetic retinopathy – potentially causing vision loss or less vision gains.”
It’s important to note that people with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are at-risk for developing diabetic eye disease. “Type 2 diabetes patients make up the majority of the diabetic patient population in the U.S., and they face their own unique management challenges, including navigating lifestyle changes. That's why DME awareness is a critical piece of the puzzle for any diabetes patient,” said Dr. Shah.
These days, Dave spends his time reading, taking walks with his wife Vickie and dreaming of future travel (his last trip to Poland was a blast). His vision has been greatly improved by DME treatment. “I’m not as worried about losing my vision anymore.”
At Genentech, we are inspired by Dave and the estimated 750,000 people in America with DME. Because behind that statistic are people – our family members, friends and our community members, each with their own story. They are the reason we are relentless in our mission to save sight.
Learn more about diabetic eye disease at Gene.com/stories/understanding-diabetic-eye-disease.