Nearly out of options — and hope — after multiple eye procedures for diabetic eye disease, one woman found a treatment that restored her vision. She’s now encouraging other people living with diabetes to be more proactive about getting regular eye exams to stay ahead of potential vision loss.
When Lauren was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at 37, it didn’t come as a shock. The disease runs in her family: several of her immediate family members have it, including her father, who eventually died because of related complications.
“I actually got diagnosed at the same age my dad did,” Lauren said, “so it wasn’t really a surprise to me.”
What Lauren didn’t know — like many of the other 34 million Americans living with diabetes — is that high blood sugar from diabetes can cause serious damage to the delicate blood vessels in the back of one’s eyes. If untreated, diabetes can ultimately lead to severe vision loss and even blindness.
At 38, Lauren learned she had diabetic macular edema (DME), a severe vision-threatening complication of diabetes. DME, which advances from an earlier form of the disease called diabetic retinopathy, is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults. African Americans like Lauren are three times more likely than white adults to develop it.
Even though Lauren was being diligent about managing her diabetes before the DME diagnosis — she started eating right and exercising more — the condition still took its toll on her eyes.
Her primary physician told her to see an eye doctor, who diagnosed her with DME and said she was at risk of losing her sight or even going blind. Over time, Lauren’s vision began to decline, and she said she started seeing “lightning bolts.”
Lauren’s vision began to decline and she said she started seeing “lightning bolts.”
“I was faking it to make it seem like I was okay, but I was tripping over things and walking extremely slow,” Lauren said. “I was fooling myself and wasn’t paying attention to my eye health.”
To stave off the progression of her DME, Lauren was referred to a retina specialist, Dr. Roger Goldberg, who recommended her for a series of procedures, including laser surgery.
Some of the procedures helped, but when one fixed the peripheral vision in her left eye, she became almost completely blind in her right eye. Things began to look grim.
“I started kind of losing hope because I thought I was doing better with my health, and I couldn’t understand why things weren’t going like I wanted them to with my vision,” Lauren said.
Lauren’s outlook changed for the better when her doctor recommended that she try an anti-VEGF injectable treatment that blocks the growth of new blood vessels in the back of the eye to treat DME. She says she now receives regular treatments, and that the injections have halted the damage to her eye’s blood vessels and restored most of her vision.
“These Lucentis injections work well in terms of treating diabetic macular edema, and preventing recurrences or complications from these more advanced forms of diabetic retinopathy,” said Dr. Goldberg.
Lauren now receives regular treatments with Lucentis, and the injections have halted the damage to her eye’s blood vessels and improved her vision.
“I am grateful to be able to see again,” Lauren said. “Although it’s a day-to-day fight to stay on track with my diabetes, I’m definitely not taking things for granted anymore.”
In two studies of a total of 507 people who had DR with DME, after two years, on average the 250 people who received Lucentis saw 12 more eye chart letters vs. the 257 people who did not receive Lucentis saw three more letters on average.
Patients should not use Lucentis if they have an infection in or around the eye or are allergic to Lucentis or any of its ingredients. Lucentis is a prescription medication given by injection into the eye, and it has side effects. Lucentis is not for everyone. Some Lucentis patients have had detached retinas and serious eye infections. Patients should call or visit their eye doctor right away if their eye becomes red, sensitive to light, or painful, or if they have a change in vision.
With 88 million Americans currently classified as prediabetic, the incidence of diabetes is expected to rise and complications like DME will only become more common.
For Lauren, who works as a check processor, seeking treatment for DME helped her regain her vision and critical hand-eye coordination skills, which allowed her to maintain her livelihood. However, she still faces her fair share of daily struggles; for instance, she now has a hard time looking at her computer.
Lauren says she wishes she would have understood earlier how diabetes and high blood sugar can affect vision, which is why she’s sharing her story. Being informed and getting the appropriate treatment at the right time can help avoid complications that can lead to vision loss. She hopes she can encourage the millions of people who have or are at risk of developing diabetes to take charge of their eye health so they can keep their sight.
That’s why during November, Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, Lauren hopes she can encourage the millions of people who have or are at risk of developing diabetes to take charge of their eye health so they can keep their sight.
“If you address this disease early, you can basically prevent the vision loss associated with it,” Dr. Goldberg said. He says that even if an eye doctor doesn’t yet see changes in your eyes as a result of diabetes, it is critical to visit them every year to ensure the situation doesn’t worsen.
To learn more about diabetic eye disease, visit gene.com.
Who is LUCENTIS for?
LUCENTIS® (ranibizumab injection) is a prescription medicine for the treatment of patients with:
- wet age-related macular degeneration (wAMD)
- macular edema following retinal vein occlusion (RVO)
- diabetic macular edema (DME)
- diabetic retinopathy (DR)
- myopic choroidal neovascularization (mCNV)
What important safety information should I know about
You should not use LUCENTIS if you have an infection in or around the eye or are allergic to LUCENTIS or any of its ingredients.
LUCENTIS is a prescription medication given by injection into the eye, and it has side effects. Some LUCENTIS patients have had detached retinas and serious infections inside the eye. If your eye becomes red, sensitive to light, or painful, or if you have a change in vision, call or visit your eye doctor right away.
Some patients have had increased eye pressure before and within 1 hour of an injection.
Uncommonly, LUCENTIS patients have had serious, sometimes fatal, problems related to blood clots, such as heart attacks or strokes.
Fatal events were seen more often in patients with DME and DR with LUCENTIS compared with patients who did not receive Lucentis. Although there were only few fatal events which included causes of death typical of patients with advanced diabetic complications, these events may be caused by Lucentis. Some LUCENTIS patients have serious side effects related to the injection. These include serious infections inside the eye, detached retinas, and cataracts. The most common eye-related side effects are increased redness in the white of the eye, eye pain, small specks in vision, and increased eye pressure. The most common non–eyerelated side effects are nose and throat infections, anemia, nausea and cough.
You may report side effects to the FDA at (800) FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch. You may also report side effects to Genentech at (888) 835-2555.
For additional safety information, please talk to your doctor and see the LUCENTIS full prescribing information.