This national eye health week, we hear from Tanya Kitto who is raising awareness on the importance of attending regular eye checks if you have type 1 diabetes.
“The same year I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes we moved from London to the North East.
“It was 1993 and I was only three and a half. My condition went uncontrolled for a lot of my early life.
“When I was old enough to take more control myself, I had a lack of knowledge on the correct amount of insulin I needed, so I would give myself random amounts.
“Not giving yourself the correct amount of insulin can lead to complications – but as a teenager I wasn’t thinking about the consequences.
“From the age of 16 I started testing my blood regularly but it wasn’t until I was 26 that I became better controlled.
“This turnaround came when I went to the GP, about something else, who looked at my glucose levels and saw I was heading into trouble. This was when I realised I couldn’t go on as I was.
“As a result of that appointment I got in touch with my diabetes team and they put me straight on to a pump – which was a life changer.
“The technology that exists now for people with type 1 has really helped my overall anxiety and general life with the condition. However, my retinopathy had already started and I began to notice changes in my vision.
“These changes were a small black dot that would come and go, but by the time I was 20 I noticed my vision was distorted and more blurry – this was more in my left eye, but affected both.
“At this point I was at university in London. I went to the eye hospital where I found out I had macular oedema – the final stage of retinopathy – and was told there might not be anything to treat it.
“This was very hard to hear – however I started having laser treatment every day for a good 2-3 weeks and that’s when I decided to leave university and move back home.
“There I went to see a new doctor who sat me down and said unless I had regular injections I would lose the sight completely. I was fearful of this but realised there was no other option.
“I have been receiving the injections for nearly four years now, every eight weeks, which is keeping my vision steady and it won’t get any worse.
“The day before an appointment I get anxious about it but I am used to it. Now I go once every 2-3 months for eye checks, rather than every month.
“It is less stressful now that my appointments are less frequent.
“If anyone reading this is in the first stages of an eye problem do seek help and make sure you keep the appointments with the diabetes team. By doing this your eyes will get the attention that they need.
“And remember the type 1 community online is there for you. The friends you make on there understand what you are going through.
“I try not to get upset about my diabetes – I don’t let myself think negatively but if I start to feel down, I’ll talk to someone in the online community.
“I will always feel better after a couple of hours, talking to someone going through the same struggles as me. We all help each feel stronger – we are a beautiful community.”
Find out more about eye health and type 1 diabetes.