LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - One of the most devastating complications of diabetes is vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy affects almost half of diabetics and without keeping it under control, your days with sight are numbered.
For nearly 30 years, Charles Duff of Westlake has lived with diabetes, a condition that affects him every day.
"Everything, every day," said Duff. "Eating right, medications, keeping up with your doctors appointments."
Duff's complications have been limited, but impactful in his daily living, particularly the vision problems that started creeping in three years ago.
"I started having floaters with the black spots, which is actually bleeding in the eye. I sneezed one day and I was blind," said Duff.
That vision loss was temporary, but scary, as Duff says he could see blood in his eyes as his vision came back.
He was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss for adults with diabetes, says Dr. William Hart with Hart Eye Center in Lake Charles.
"The blood vessels break down and eventually to the point where the tissue seems to be starving to the body and so the body elaborates a substance called vascular endothelial growth factor," said Dr. Hart. "That causes new blood vessels to grow into the retina."
Dr. Hart says those blood vessels are abnormal, leak fluid, and create distorted vision.
"Blood vessels grow in, but they're fragile vessels that tend to break down and to bleed," said Dr. Hart. "That bleeding into the eye can cause a myriad of problems."
Treating diabetic retinopathy was two-fold for Duff. It started with laser surgery to cauterize the hemorrhaged blood vessels.
"I've had it done in both eyes a couple of times," he said.
After Mr. Duff underwent laser treatment, his next step was to get eye injections to stop the growth of new blood vessels.
"We inject the substance into the gel cavity and it resides there and then the substance causes the new blood vessels to stop growing," said Dr. Hart.
Duff says injections to the eye are not without some uneasiness, but after one round, his episodes with vision loss have stopped.
"I haven't had them since the injections," said Duff.
Some patients will require more injections, depending on the stage of the disease.
Dr. Hart says all patients need to prioritize their diabetes management and follow-up doctors appointments to keep their vision in focus.