Tell me a story about diabetic retinopathy laser surgery.
June 29, 2006 3:20 PM   Subscribe

I've been diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. I'm AskMe'ing for first- or second-hand accounts of the outcome of laser surgery.

I was diagnosed on Monday by my ophthamologist. I have an appointment with a retina surgical specialist towards the end of July. I've done some online research and know there is a high level of success with the surgery. In the meantime I'd like a few stories to, hopefully, allay my fears.

Background: I was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago. I take my meds (metformin, glyburide, Avandia) but I've not been very good at the other stuff required to keep my blood glucose levels where they should be. However, in March I got a kick in the arse from my doctor and I've been doing much better since then (cut out sugar, started exercising, joined Weight Watchers and I'm losing weight, etc.).
posted by deborah to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My mother had laser treatments for leaking blood vessels in her retinas due to diabetes some 8 years ago, over the course of 4 treatments. She also had had cataract surgery prior to this, and the laser treatments completed a course of work by her opthamologist that she was convinced saved her vision. The treatments were very successful, and although she was checked yearly thereafter for further problems, she never needed additional "zaps" as she called them, after the 250 or so she originally had during the first 4 treatment sessions. She worked diligently at keeping her blood sugar levels under control for the last 15 years of her life.

Sadly, however, she died of complications of diabetes in March, 2005, at the age of 76. She fought a series of foot ulcers that kept her essentially bedridden for the last 2 years of her life, and eventually succumbed to kidney failure, and congestive heart failure, but it was long, slow, agonizing process. Get serious about controlling the disease -- you live in a time when cures for some types of diabetes may actually become available, and you'll kick yourself if your disease has progressed too far to make you eligible for treatment. And not to mention, if you don't control it, you'll have a poor quality of life, and a far shorter one.
posted by paulsc at 3:35 PM on June 29, 2006

Best answer: My partner is a Type 1 diabetic since age 12, now age 48. He has had numerous laser sugeries for diabetic retinopathy. They saved his sight. He was blind for awhile, temporarily, and now he can see.

Take care of yourself. You, yourself, are the most important factor when it comes to controlling and mastering diabetes. Learn all you can, do what you need to do, rely on others for support.

Best of luck to you!
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:03 PM on June 29, 2006

Best answer: My father was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at roughly the same time as laser surgery was being made available on an experimental basis at Duke University (1993 or 1994 was his first year of treatments... I think he was diagnosed in 1992). I could be wrong about the timing. The point is, when he was diagnosed no one really knew if the laser treatments would work, so he was told that although they might be able to save his vision for a few years, blindness was inevitable.

Luckily for him (and for everone with diabetic retinopathy), laser surgery is a remarkable procedure. The retinal degradation was arrested (and some of his retina actually healed).

His vision is certainly not great, but he can drive, play golf, go fishing in his boat, etc. The laser treatments really did have a miraculous effect.
posted by bobot at 9:19 AM on June 30, 2006

Forgot to add: best of luck to you!
posted by bobot at 9:27 AM on June 30, 2006

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