In 2008, Gayle, who lives with type 1 diabetes, was told by an
eye specialist that she had macular degeneration, a degenerative
eye condition resulting in distortion or loss of central vision,
and she had laser surgery on both eyes.
The following year she was driving an elderly lady into town. "I
suddenly noticed the white line on the road wasn't straight; it was
bendy. That's when I got scared," she said.
"I pulled over and said, 'Will you drive?' When we got into town
I walked straight into my doctor's office, nervous as a
Gayle's quick action saved her sight. She saw another eye
specialist, who said she didn't have macular degeneration at all,
but diabetic retinopathy, where the tiny blood vessels at the back
of the eye are damaged.
It's the most common eye problem in people with diabetes.
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in working-age
Australians, but with regular eye checks, most vision loss is
preventable. This is why Diabetes Australia is urging the 1.3
million Australians with diabetes to sign up to KeepSight, a new,
free national eye check reminder program.
After two years of injections in her left eye, Gayle's sight is
now back to normal.
"When the ophthalmologist said, 'Your eyes are so much better,
you don't need any more injections', I got out of my chair and
Now 70, Gayle, who lives in Stanthorpe in Queensland, has her
eyes checked every two years. "If anything starts to go haywire it
will be more often, but so far, so good. The ophthalmologist said
my eyes are in terrific condition," she said.
"The only thing I can't do much anymore is reading. I can't read
more than a few pages before my left eye starts to ache."
She said she has also had to attach luminous tape to the edge of
each stair at home to stop her walking into them at night, but she
still drives and enjoys sewing patchwork and modern embroidery,
though she admits that sometimes she has to ask her husband, Jim,
to measure her patchwork fabric for her.
"I won't give in to anything unless I have to," she said. "My GP
said, 'For a 70-year-old with diabetes you're doing pretty damn
well.' I consider myself very lucky. I've got my eyesight and no
Gayle has two children and three grandchildren, aged 13, 18 and
Her son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 10. "He
knows to go for regular eye checks," she said. "He has a care plan
all set up."
Gayle said her story shows it's important to have regular eye
"And I urge people to seek help immediately if something's not
right. Run, don't walk, to an optometrist. Don't waste any time or
think it'll just go away."
The KeepSight program will alert you when it's time to have an
eye test. If you haven't had your eyes checked recently you can
download a referral card to take to your local eye health
professional for a diabetes eye check.
The program will also send you important eye health
"I hope my story can help someone else," Gayle said. "If you pay
attention to your body, there will be a happy ending."
To find out more about the KeepSight program visit www.keepsight.org.au
Take a minute and register today to never lose sight of future