Diabetes and vision loss: A woman's journey

Darcy Cooper of Prince George awoke one May morning and could not see. Although she had noticed her vision was declining in recent years from diabetes, she was not prepared to awaken one morning without sight.
Cooper has diabetic retinopathy, a condition where elevated blood glucose levels cause blood vessels in the retina to swell and leak; which in turn caused the retinas to detach. Five years earlier, she noticed she had “floaters” in her eyes, which subtly worsened over time.
“It was very hard to look through or around,” said Cooper, “it is like having spider webs in front of your eyes.”
But sudden blindness was an emotional and difficult challenge. “I sat at home and cried for three months,” said Cooper.
Nearly all Canadians with type 1 and 60 per cent of those with type 2 diabetes develop some form of diabetic retinopathy during the first 20 years of becoming diabetic. There are 66,000 residents with some form of diabetic retinopathy in B.C. alone.
After facing her loss of vision in May 2005, Cooper sought help to navigate through her journey of vision loss. She turned to CNIB for programs and services to help her overcome her challenges and regain her independence.
She participated in peer-support sessions and received employment training and counselling, enabling her to seek out alternate options to continue her career working with disadvantaged women and children.
CNIB also taught her how to move around safely in her home and within her community, with orientation and mobility training and independent living skills sessions. She particularly enjoys CNIB’s library services, where she downloads audio books for listening on her audio player. An avid reader, she is thrilled to be continuing to enjoy her love of books.
“I am determined to maintain a positive outlook throughout my life, and am forever thankful to my family, friends and CNIB,” said Cooper.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss amongst Canadians under 50, and more than nine million Canadians have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy can lead to uncorrectable vision loss, usually in both eyes.
CNIB has a range of resources for Canadians with diabetes and their families including Eye Connect: Diabetic Retinopathy. This one-stop online resource provides a comprehensive overview of risk factors for developing diabetic retinopathy, prevention tips, treatments, tools available to you for adapting to vision loss and resources for emotional support. For more information, visit www.cnib.ca/dr. This website has been made possible through a financial contribution from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
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Media Contact:
Janet Batty, Communications Manager, CNIB BC-Yukon
604-431-2121 ext. 6029
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