The Eyes Have It
Learning from the past and preparing for a future of good health
By Ilene Raymond Rush
November 2007 — As anyone with type 2 diabetes can attest, extra helpings of food and stress can translate into roller coaster glucose readings. The key is keeping things in balance, a trick that gets difficult during tough times.
Take this summer: my Dad entered hospice, my Mom spent a week in the hospital, my oldest son graduated from college and moved to the West Coast, and my youngest took up with his first girlfriend (accompanied by 700 text messages in a single month). Add the usual writing and work deadlines, the upcoming 53rd birthday and you have a full house of stressors – both bad and good – that yielded highs and lows in my moods and my blood sugars.
Ten years ago, I probably would have leapt on the exercise bike and pedaled away extra miles. Or checked my diet more closely.
But overwhelmed by life events, I took the complacent route. The soles of my feet registered the slightest brush; my heartbeat was steady; my blood pressure low. My last A1C was a commendable 6.5.
After all, I rationalized, after almost 20-years with type 2 diabetes, didn't I deserve a break? A son doesn't graduate from Harvard every day: bring on the extra flute of champagne. Late nights with my father at the hospice deserved a bowl of chocolate ice cream (or two) to quell my sadness. And if I skipped a day of elliptical once in a while (or twice in a while) who would know?
Wrong and wrong again.
Shift to this fall and my six-month checkup with my retinologist. Leaning to examine my dilated pupil in a darkened room he said, "Your sugars have been fluctuating."
It wasn't a question. Or a parlor trick. I sat, a bit frozen, as he described what he saw – the birth of diabetic cataracts in both eyes. Unlike regular cataracts, which cloud the center of the eye first and work their way to the edges of the lens, diabetic cataracts tend to start at the edges of the lens and work inwards, leaving bicycle-like spokes across the eye. One cause: large fluctuations in blood glucose readings caused by, you guessed it, food and/or stress.
The doctor leaned back.
"Your vision is good," he said. He clicked off the penlight in his hand. "But let's get back in control, ok?"
So what's my lesson here?
You can't stop stress. You will overeat on occasion. Life sometimes spins out of your grasp. But the body, that wondrous machine, is programmed to record the costs of such behaviors. And, having paid the price this time, I'm ready to follow my doctor's advice and try again.
It's really all I – and we -- can do.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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