Retina Specialist Saves Young Father’s Sight After Complications Due to Diabetic Retinopathy
Erik Elliott was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 2. Growing up, Erik made his eyesight a priority, having dilated retina exams at least once a year from the time he was a pre-teen. Despite his best efforts to manage his condition, he began experiencing symptoms of diabetic retinopathy including floaters, or spots in his vision, in his late 30’s.
“If my blood sugar was more controlled when I was younger, my eyesight probably wouldn’t have been affected,” Erik said. “Challenges I experienced controlling my blood sugar for a few years definitely caught up with me.”
Under the care of ASRS member Dr. Anne Hanneken, Erik’s retinopathy was managed through monthly eye injections. But one day the vision in his right eye rapidly deteriorated.
“I was watching TV and realized my vision was getting worse, I had a bad bleed in my eye,” Erik said. “I got in to see my retina specialist as soon as possible, by which point the vision in my right eye was nearly gone.”
Dr. Hanneken recommended a surgery called vitrectomy to address the bleeding (also referred to as hemorrhaging), that was taking place in the back of Erik’s eye. Because there was a chance that the bleed in Erik’s eye could improve on its own and the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erik’s surgery was not scheduled right away.
For nearly two months, Erik had almost no vision in his right eye. During that time, his vision loss made it hard to drive, challenging to work at his computer, and he missed opportunities to participate in everyday activities with his three children.
“I have always coached my son’s baseball team, but with my vision loss I couldn’t do it,” Erik said. “It was hard to see him on the field with other coaches and I couldn’t help.”
When it was safe to do so, Dr. Hanneken performed the surgery, which helped restore Erik’s vision back to 20/20. Erik says one of the best things about the care he received from Dr. Hanneken was her calm reassurance that the surgery would help restore his vision and together they could manage any future complications.
“After the surgery, I feel like a new man. It’s just a night and day difference,” Erik said. “Eyesight is everything. Just losing vision temporarily in one eye really changed the way I think about controlling my blood sugar and caring for my sight, I never want to experience vision loss again.”