Last Tuesday was World Diabetes Day. This post, therefore, comes a little late, but better late than never.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in October 2020. This life changing diagnosis came completely out of the blue. I have a healthy diet, I exercise regularly, and am generally pretty fit and healthy. To suddenly find myself with a chronic condition, facing a lifetime of regular injections, was something of a shock.
I’d like to share the story of my diagnosis as something of a cautionary tale.
I’ve worn glasses since the age of eight. Sometimes when I’m tired I struggle a little with my sight. Not to any great extent, but enough that I notice my sight being a little worse than normal.
Back in October 2020, coming towards the end of a long and busy half term at school, I noticed that my sight had deteriorated a little. I initially put this down to tiredness, but after a couple of days I found myself struggling to identify the children who were sitting at the back of my classroom. This struck me as out of the ordinary. We were due to visit my parents in Suffolk that weekend, and when I mentioned to Claire, my wife, that I wasn’t sure I should be driving, and would she mind driving, Claire told me that if I thought my sight was that bad I should go and see the optician.
I managed to book an appointment with my usual optician on Monday morning, so I called into work sick, and popped along to Vision Express, thinking that this would just be a run-of-the mill appointment, potentially with a slightly stronger prescription dispensed.
I go to get my eyes checked every couple of years so I know the routine, and also how my eyes respond to the usual tests. This time, however, I could tell that something was wrong. I struggled to identify any of the letters on the chart. I felt a mix of concern, worry and upset building within me. This was exacerbated by the obvious concern of my optician, as he worked through the various lenses.
At the end of the test, my optician said that he was very concerned because my sight had deteriorated significantly since my previous appointment less than a year ago. He recommended that I visit my GP as soon as possible to get checked for potential diabetes.
After detonating that significant bomb, I was left completely shell shocked and just about managed to pay for my test before struggling out into the street. I immediately called Claire, who is a doctor in A&E. She said that it was highly unlikely that I had diabetes, but that she would take me to A&E to get checked out.
A couple of hours later I found myself with a verified diagnosis of diabetes, probably Type 1 (which later tests proved accurate), and struggling with the reality that I was now going to have to inject myself with insulin if I was going to survive-not just now, for this first time, but repeatedly, multiple times a day, for the rest of my life.
I am so grateful to that optician who recognised the deterioration in my sight and what this meant. I’m so glad that I routinely visit my optician, so that this unexpected deterioration was recognised.
Indeed, this is not the first time that a significant health issue was recognised by my optician. In 2008 it was my optician who first diagnosed my high blood pressure.
My message to anyone who might be reading this, therefore, is visit your optician. Not just once, but routinely. Go every couple of years. You never know the health catastrophes that you might be spared by getting into this habit!