Erica Scaglione was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 7 years old. At 26, she woke up with no vision.
I hope my story will help others find their strength and remember that diabetes does not define you!
“I went to bed at night and woke up the next morning completely blind,” Erica said.
Just shy of her 27th birthday, Erica was diagnosed with diabetes-related retinopathy. While several surgeries corrected the damage to her left eye, she never regained vision in her right eye — a complication of diabetes she never expected. And she’s not alone.
Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in American adults. Anyone with diabetes is at risk for developing diabetes-related eye disease, just like Erica. Diabetes-related retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes, is caused by damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye near the retina. In early stages, there may not be obvious signs or symptoms, and it can sometimes go unnoticed until it’s too late.
Diabetes and eye health
The American Diabetes Association® (ADA), with Visionary Partners, VSP Vision™, and Regeneron, created Focus on Diabetes,® (FOD), an initiative that seeks to raise awareness about the connection between diabetes and eye health and encourage people living with diabetes to take steps to improve their health.
During American Diabetes Month in November, the ADA and FOD highlighted this year’s theme: today’s diabetes hits different. With advancements in technology, education, research, and advocacy, those living with diabetes can manage their diagnosis better than ever before. By sharing the stories like Erica’s, we are bringing to light the impact of diabetes and diabetes-related eye disease. Available resources and information are crucial for anyone living with diabetes to help improve their overall health.
“I’ve seen firsthand how the narrative around diabetes has evolved, especially as we have increased our understanding of diabetes care and complications,” said Dr. Laura Hieronymus, certified diabetes care and education specialist and vice president of Health Care Programs, Science and Health Care at the ADA. “It’s critical that we continue to have deeper conversations around the impact of diabetes, so we can continue to deliver the best care and education to people living with diabetes.”
During an annual dilated eye exam, an eye doctor can detect potential health problems early and help protect your vision. Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can reduce a person’s risk for severe vision loss from diabetes-related eye disease by 95%.
“Diabetes is a multi-faceted condition, and it’s not always easy for patients to access and implement necessary care,” said Dr. Nuha El Sayed, endocrinologist and vice president, Health Care Improvement, Science and Health Care at the ADA. “That’s why education, along with the real-life experiences of patients like Erica, are so important. They show that while diabetes impacts people differently, there are tangible steps that you can take to live a healthier life.”
For Erica, diabetes hit her life in a big way. Now, she’s dedicated to raising awareness about eye health so that no one endures what she did.
“It’s been challenging learning to navigate my new normal, but my family, friends, and love of opera music have gotten me through and helped me better manage my diabetes and eye health. I hope my story will help others find their strength and remember that diabetes does not define you!” Erica said.