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Transcript: "Living with Diabetic Retinopathy"

Mary: The best things in life? That's easy -- they're my grandchildren. Oh, I know I'm partial, but I love just everything about them -- how they look, how they laugh. They're always so full of questions. How they depend on me while their mom's at work. The thought of never being able to see them again or read to them or watch them grow -- I don't know how I could have coped with that, and yet it's something that almost happened.

Announcer: It almost did happen to Mary Davidson, because not long ago, without even knowing it, Mary was going blind.

Mary: I'd noticed that sometimes my vision seemed a little blurry and I decided to get it checked. I thought I just needed new glasses, so I never expected what the doctor found.

Doctor: I know that Mary has diabetes, so I was looking for diabetic eye disease, and that's what I discovered a disease called diabetic retinopathy. It's a good thing we caught it when we did, because if we hadn't, it might have cost Mary her eyesight. Ninety percent of the people with diabetic retinopathy -- even those in the most advanced stages -- can still save their vision, but they have to seek help. Now, the most effective treatment is laser surgery. In this procedure, doctors shine a laser -- a tiny, high-energy beam of light -- into the eye, destroying abnormal blood vessels. Now, lasers are also used to seal leaking blood vessels and reduce the swelling inside the eye. But here's the catch: the treatments are only helpful if the disease is discovered early, and although this may not always be easy, sometimes there are obvious signs of trouble. Like a change in how colors look, or a blurring at the center of what you see, or your vision becomes clouded, or you notice a loss of peripheral, or side, vision. But remember, it's also possible to have diabetic eye disease and experience no symptoms at all. Make no mistake, the damage is there. And while it can be halted, it cannot be reversed. The vision that's lost is lost forever.

Announcer: The most reliable way to prevent all of this is to have a comprehensive examination performed by a qualified eye care professional, such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The exam will include a visual acuity test to determine if the patient does indeed have any problems seeing clearly. It may also include a painless test that measures the pressure within the eye, but these tests alone are not enough. The most reliable way to detect diabetic eye disease is a painless and easy test in which the doctor, using drops to dilate, or enlarge, the pupil, examines the interior of the eye for early signs of the disease, signs that will occur long before loss of vision. A comprehensive eye exam through dilated pupils at least once a year for people with diabetes -- that's the recommendation of eye care professionals, and that's the way to stop diabetic eye disease before it stops you. The way Mary Davidson did.

Mary: It's hard to believe but it's true. Not long ago, I was just moments from darkness -- the moments it took to have my eyes examined. But it's because of those moments that I'm looking forward to years of seeing the things I want to see, doing the things I want to do, living the way I want to live, years of enjoying my time with my grandchildren and all of the things that to me are the best things in life!

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