Eeek - eye doc day

My mom and sister needed glasses from the time they were little kids. My dad needed glasses by the time he was in his early 30’s. My vision was always fine and, from the age of 16 or so, we had no health insurance. I therefore didn’t see an eye doc from the age of about 15 to… well, for years. I never had a problem, usually had no insurance, wasn’t diabetic and so I never went to one.

Well, at age 30 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (in 2002). In early 2005 I finally went in for the big scary eye exam. Everything was ok and I still didn’t need glasses.Yay! However, he said I had a hole in my retina that had healed up at some point in the past. It didn’t need anything done to it and the hole had probably been caused by anything from a chemical splash in the eye to a bad flu infection. Being that I hadn’t seen an eye doc for years and years, there was no way to tell if the problem happened four years ago or fourteen years ago.

Well, halfway through the next year, 2006, I moved to Germany. That’s like 3x the stress (wait, maybe 100x the stress) of moving across the country. Agh! With all the issues of packing, moving, unpacking, trying to learn German, being in a class all day, trying to find new docs and specialists and navigating through a brand new medical system, I didn’t see an eye doc at all in 2006.

Now 2007 is almost over. It’s been right about two years since I’ve had an eye exam and now I have my first German appointment this afternoon. I’m totally scared =:-/ Why?

1. What about that hole in the retina thing? He said in 2005 that it wasn’t an issue, but it’s been two years since I’ve seen someone and he’s the only one to ever have looked at it. What if he was mistaken? What if I have to explain that I don’t know when it happened or why it happened because I never saw the doc? I don’t need lectures about how I should’ve seen an eye doc regularly in the past. Too late for that now.

2. Why didn’t I see a doc in 2006?! Shame, shame. You’re diabetic and you MUST… blah, blah. Again, I don’t need lectures. YOU try moving to another continent with another language and several chronic conditions and let’s see if YOU get all the necessary appointments in! (I still haven’t seen a dentist here yet. Agh!)

3. The whole type 1 /type 2 issue. I got type 1 (absolutely classic type 1, with the genes, the antibodies and the disease progression,… not even LADA, strangely) as an adult. It certainly happens, but so many docs still labor under the belief that only children get type 1. To top it off, I’m very overweight, so of COURSE I’ve just got to be a type 2. Aghgh! I hate this conversation. And I hate that I am forced to have it at nearly every new doctor’s office!

4. The biggest and scariest. What if they find something wrong??? I’m even freaked out by the thought of being told I need glasses, lol (which I don’t think I need… yet), but what if there’s retinopathy or cataracts??? (I’ve used inhaled corticosteroids for severe asthma for years and years now and my mom has unexplained early cataracts, so I guess I’m at a gazillion-fold risk. Gulp.) It seems that even most long-term diabetics who say they don’t have complications then go on to mention they’ve had “two little eye surgeries” or something. It seems that retinopathy in some form is almost a given. I’ve worked really hard to keep my a1c’s under 6.8 since diagnosis, but I see that even this will not keep me in the clear. This really freaks me out because there’s that stigma attached… the “if you would’ve done better, then this wouldn’t have happened” thing. I don’t necessarily believe it, though. Some folks have high a1c’s for years and are relatively unscathed, while others have fairly good a1c’s for a short time and get kidney disease. It depends on your genetic weaknesses, in the end.

5. If number 4 happens, I won’t even know what’s actually wrong. Language barrier. They categorize retinopathy differently here and use different terminology. And, despite taking classes and studying, my German skills still suck. Pick a language you don’t know much of at all (German probably applies) and imagine a doctor looking very concerned and telling you about something that she just MUST make you understand, but you only understand 3 words, lol. It sucks.

Well, I’m not trying to be ultra-negative or, as my mom says, “borrow trouble”, but these are the fears about my first German eye appointment. I try to keep medical concerns mostly out of my main blog, so this is the only place I can whine, lol =;-)

Good luck today, and do be sure to let us know how your appointment goes. I don’t have any evidence of diabetic changes in my eyes, but my vision changed a great deal before I was diagnosed. Until then I didn’t need glasses, and then suddenly I needed a prescription so much stronger than what the docs thought I could handle. So for a year my glasses were ‘half’ the strength of what I needed - and I could see so much better. This year I got the rest of the prescription strength, and wow, what difference being able to see really makes! I hadn’t realised how much I was ‘guessing’ at what I was seeing - something my sister picked up on and mentioned to me. It was then I finally made an appointment and got my eyes checked. I am SO glad I did too. Not seeing clearly (without realising it) can really add a lot of additional stress that can be done without!!

And hey, I fully understand moving to another country, although I moved from Michigan to Australia. At least the language is mostly the same!


good luck today. i’m sending positive vibes your way.

The only time I have had my eyes looked at was when i had pink eye. Other than that, I don’t even remember the last time I had a complete checkup. I’m planning on doing so at the first of the year.

Well, got back from the appointment. No probs. Everything is fine. No signs of retinopathy. I’m ever so slightly far-sighted, but not enough to need glasses. I guess I just beat everyone in my family. Not one person… grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins… made it to 35 without needing glasses, lol. At least I got SOMETHING good out of the gene pile =;-) Hmmm. Think I’d rather wear glasses and NOT be diabetic, though …

Hi! How do you find the system in Germany? i understand your fear of the eye exam, i’m always really nervous when I have to go, as in 2006 I had operations for the cataract. But everything went well, and now I’m not wearing any more glasses for myopia (the operation for cataracts corrects) I’m wearing glasses to read. but it’s ok, not big deal.
I can imagine about the difficulty of understanding doctors, it’s not always easy at all, as I’m italian.
Take care,