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Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes… But what is it like to live with? Sweet Life community member Rencia Phillips shares her experience below. Let us know what life with diabetic retinopathy is like for you.

diabetes retinopathy

I have been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 33 years, since I was a child. At the age of eighteen, I started noticing a drastic decline in the vision in my right eye: everything I looked at was halved.  After many tests and different procedures, I discovered I had diabetic retinopathy. This diabetic complication damages the blood vessels at the back of the eye.

Living with diabetic retinopathy

The world I knew for years was beginning to change around me and there was nothing that I could really do to stop it or change the outcome of life thereafter. I have had diabetic retinopathy in both my left and my right eye. Due to my diabetes and the severity of my retinopathy in the left eye, I had to have my left eye removed 12 years ago. I managed to recover from the retina detachment to my right eye, but my sight has never quite been the same.

The first retina reattachment was a huge challenge as I could only see with my left eye. Three months after my first operation, I lost the vision in my left eye and for the remainder of three months I was left in total darkness with just a mere light perception. The fear and anxiety that followed was greater than I could express in words.

Diabetes complications

Today, more than ten years later, after many eye operations, it saddens me to know that my sight will probably keep deteriorating as it has over the years. It’s a scary thing to live with every day. The challenge becomes bigger with every month that goes by. I have to keep my blood sugar as well controlled as possible, keep my doctor appointments and try my level best not to let the daunting fact that my sight is going to deteriorate hold me down.

Sadly, diabetes is not for the faint-hearted. It is certainly not for those that can’t handle illness, complications and difficulties. My worst fear is not being able to see, to be surrounded by darkness and having to rely on people to help me – especially in unfamiliar surroundings. I cannot express how it changes your life.

Having diabetes is a challenge. Having a diabetic complication becomes an even bigger challenge.

Preventing diabetes complications

It is absolutely crucial that parents of children with diabetes take their child to the necessary doctors every six months. If you are an adult with diabetic complications, read as much as you can, have a good relationship with your doctors and don’t lose courage or strength to persevere.

Remember: diabetes is not a death sentence, it is a lifestyle change. Take it in your stride and do what you were supposed to, and all should be fine.

What to read next?

Free Diabetic Retinopathy Risk Calculator: We just found out about the Retina Risk App, developed in Reykjavik, Iceland, and wanted to share it with our community of South Africans with diabetes.

New Discovery screening benefit helps you take care of your sight: If you’re living with diabetes, it’s important to have your eyes screened every year. The new diabetic retinopathy screening benefit from Discovery hopes to make this a lot easier.

What are diabetes complications? A helpful list of symptoms: Diabetes complications are one of those things none of us wants to think about… Having diabetes can be stressful enough without worrying about complications.

Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

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  1. […] Retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of the eye(s) are damaged. While retinopathy can, if left untreated, cause partial or total blindness, regular check-ups with your ophthalmologist (eye specialist) can help you identify retinopathy early on. This gives you and your doctor time to outline a diabetes management plan to stop, or slow down, its progression.  […]

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.