When asked about common health problems today, diabetes likely comes to mind. Caused by the human body failing to produce enough or failing to properly utilize insulin to process the sugars we consume, diabetes afflicted almost 10% of the population as of 2014. More specifically, the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention reported that 29.1 million people - or 9.3% of the population - had diabetes at that time.
In addition to creating extra problems for primary care doctors, nutritionists and other health experts to address, the diabetes epidemic has impacted our practices here in Pittsburgh. This is because diabetes has the ability to damage a sufferer’s vision. Four vision problems and illnesses are tied to diabetes, and ophthalmologists can treat these “diabetic eye diseases” as part of a diabetes management plan.
One local individual who worked with us to address his vision health after a diabetes diagnosis is Fred Pyor, a 52 year old Slippery Rock resident. Though admittedly overweight - a precursor to diabetes - Mr. Pyor was healthy overall, as far as he knew. He even received a clean bill of health at the vision center where he regularly received eye exams to ensure he could wear contacts.
But, “Not going to the proper [eye doctor] might have caused this,” he said when looking back at his initial diabetes diagnosis.
Mr. Pyor discovered he was living with undiagnosed diabetes on November 22, 2015. A bad infection in his left leg resulted in him being rushed to Butler Memorial Hospital. It was during testing there that he discovered he was living with diabetes.
“It was life or death for a week,” Mr. Pyor recalls about his battle with both an infection and undiagnosed diabetes. “I had three emergency surgeries.”
Mr. Pyor successfully recovered from his infection, and was eventually discharged. That was when he noticed that his diabetes was impacting his vision. “Before I found out I was a diabetic, I didn’t notice much difference in my eyes,” he remembers. “When I got out of the hospital, I had real blurry vision and trouble focusing. Seeing with dark, dim lights was almost impossible.”
Reading fine print, and seeing objects that were far away were both also very challenging. It was clear that his vision would need special care to ensure it did not worsen further - or become permanent. This is because uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a number of vision problems, due to elevated sugar levels creating problems within the nerves and blood vessels we rely on for clear vision.
So, “My family physician sent me to [local eye doctor] Dr. Balouris for an eye exam, and they sent me to Everett and Hurite.”
A Clear Success
Mr. Pyor’s journey to recovery has been a success - but it’s admittedly one we can’t take all of the credit for. While diabetic eye diseases can be caught and addressed to a certain point by eye doctors, diabetes is ultimately controlled by diet, exercise, and medication as needed. Everett and Hurite’s job was to work alongside Mr. Pyor’s primary care providers, helping to protect his vision as doctor and patient worked on controlling the condition.
Given Mr. Pyor’s poorer health at the time of his diagnosis, he was prescribed oral medication and required up to 75 units of insulin a day after being discharged. He also received monthly injections in both eyes at Everett and Hurite, to help control the swelling that was causing his blurry vision.
Today, he’s still on oral medication - but he’s off of insulin entirely. His average blood sugar level also improved, going from almost twice the healthy maximum in November 2015 to just below the healthy maximum in October 2016. And while his vision does still gets a little blurry if his blood sugar dips too low, he will only need injections in his eyes every four to six months to help prevent high-damage dwelling within them.
“Dr. Kondapalli couldn’t believe how far my vision has come,” Mr. Pyor remembers from when he ceased injections in October last year. “He said this is usually a 3 or 4 year process, and I’m 3 years ahead of the game.”
A Healthier Road Ahead
Mr. Pyor’s journey to a clearer state of health cannot be praised enough, especially because of the efforts he’s taken along the way to make his efforts and healthy living changes stick. Working with a nutritionist empowered him to literally eat his way into a healthier state, and it’s his diet and efforts to stick to it that allowed him to turn his diagnosis around faster than doctors expected.
“If you look at what’s considered a diabetic, I’m not even considered a diabetic anymore in terms of a number game,” he says, citing his average blood sugar levels from the past few months. “I’ll always be labeled one. But through hard work, dieting, exercise, it can be controlled.”
Mr. Pyor noted that one reason he’s been so successful in his efforts is that he’s competitive. “I made diabetes a competition, and by making it a competition I beat it.” That, combined with his support system, allowed him to control what was really just the latest health-related curveball thrown his way.
“I’ve been through a lot of adversity in my life, health wise,” he notes. “I’ve lived through spinal meningitis. I lived through that, I lived through this, I lived through two back fusions. Through hard work you can accomplish anything.”
Fred Pyor is just one of the numerous locals we assist on a daily basis. Our doctors are able to assist patients who come to us or who are referred to us with a range of eye diseases and eye care needs. If you are interested in working with us to manage your vision needs, contact a location near you.