Wednesday, August 7, 2019

My First-Ever Laser Eye Treatment for Retinopathy

My first-ever experience with retinopathy laser treatment was a breeze.

No pain, no big deal.

That's why my eye specialist had told me going into the procedure, but I didn't take his word for it. I should've listened and trusted him.

Instead, my anxiety fueled by a decades-long dread of diabetes eye complications -- a Fear of Complications -- clouded my emotions and prevented any sense of rational thought. All I could get my head around was that my retinopathy had finally moved to a point where something needed to be done, more than just the usual run-of-the-mill BG management that I'd been prescribed as a treatment since it first showed itself way back in 2007.

This fear's only natural. Because we're human. And we get scared when scary things get thrown at us.

When this Funky Left Eye Retinopathy was sprung on me earlier in the year, it was a quite a bit to process. I got pretty emotional about it.

My eye doc tried to reassure me, as did others who've been through this type of diabetes-related experience with retinopathy and lasers. "Calm down and take it easy," they pretty much advised. "It'll be alright."

And yet, I wasn't able to. And going into the procedure at the end of July, my nerves were all over the place. I barely slept the night before. The drive into the eye clinic was even more nerve-wracking.

Overall, the actual procedure wasn't scary or painful. In fact, it was less of an issue that normal diabetes eye exams where you have to stare into ridiculously bright lights and keep your eyes open while enduring the resulting tears.

I've created an Instagram-friendly picture post for those who love visuals (see what I did there, and then just there!)... :)

But to recap:
  • Left eye only. Retinopathy was worse in this eye, whereas it's still in the "No Action Needed" for the right eye.
  • The whole procedure from start to finish was only ~45 minutes, with half that time devoted to sitting in a waiting room as my dilation and numbing drops did their job.
  • Yep, only dilation and numbing drops!
  • An X marked the spot over my left eye.
  • The laser machine wasn't scary, it was no different than any other machine that I've had to rest my chin on and look into the light at a little dot while the doctor examines the insides of my eyes.
  • 30 bright flashes overall, that were -- as my eye doc had explained -- about the same as seeing rapid camera flashes back-to-back. This part took ~20 minutes total.


And that was it! These were on the outside part of my retina, so it wasn't as painful or drawn out as it might have been had we been focusing on the more central area.



Afterward, it was easy-peezy where my left eye just felt dilated. There was no vision impact, and in the hours afterward we went out for dinner and drinks without any issue (aside from some grimaces when the outside or general brightness hit me at the wrong angle. Over the next few days, my left eye was a bit itchy. But aside from that and an small handful of times where there was a moment of discomfort from glaring at the bright laptop screen, there was no issue.

Also, and here's a big holy moly of awesome-sauce: My insurance paid for 95% of the total $1500 cost for this! Which meant my co-pay and co-insurance amount was quite small. That rocks, all by itself.

It was also pretty cool that my blood sugars didn't go too high overall. In the hour or so beforehand, they did spike a bit due to the stress and nervousness going into the appointment and as everything got started. But they only rose to the low 200s, before leveling off and settling back down into the mid-100s within a couple hours of that. If we hadn't gone out immediately afterward for apps and drinks, I probably wouldn't have needed to dose any insulin to correct.



That's another win, right there!

Honestly, my biggest gripes were the panic and nervousness I felt going in and the fact that afterward I didn't get a cool pirate-patch to go over my left eye. I'm firmly married to the idea that eye patches should be provided, for the simple sake of being cool. Any pirate-talk you add on from there is optional and of your own choice.

Moral of the story: I'm relieved that it went as well as it did.



We have another appointment at the 10-day mark to assess and determine if anything more's needed in the near-term. That could include anything from Zero Further Treatment Needed if this did the job 100%, another laser treatment like this again, or possibly an actual eye injection (shudder) if that's deemed necessary. But really, that's all TBD. The next real gauge on how this all went will be in three months. On Halloween, as it turns out!

So now my plan is to just keep on doing as it relates to my own diabetes management -- working with my endo to do better, while fine-tuning my own discipline on CGM use and everything else and navigating my own personal D-burnout.

And then once we get to Halloween, I am totally planning to sport an eye-patch and dressing up as a pirate that evening as the trick-or-treaters come a lootin. AAARRRR!


HALLOWEEN 'PIRATE' UPDATE:

Visiting my eye doc on Halloween for the post-laser retinopathy assessment was... fun.

As noted, I'd planned my entire Halloween costume around this particular visit: The Dread Diabetes Pirate, you might have called me. I was able to wear my costume a couple times before this, for fun times with the niece and nephew, so this wasn't the first time I was all pirated-up.



Of course, being Oct. 31, the eye doc's office staff were sporting their own costumes and so it was fun to show off my eye patch and pirate-costume to some of those who were in the festive spirit.

Eye Doc was pleased with the progress, though my retinal swelling wasn't 100% gone. That's not necessarily anything to worry about, he pointed out, because it might just be slower healing. So, we have another assessment set for late January/early February to check again.

At that time, if any swelling remains, we'll discuss what comes next: another round of "bright camera flashes" lasers, a different kind of laser treatment, or possibly an eye injection (!). We shall see (pun 100% intended there!).

And so, ONWARD, me maties!!!