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Tags: Diabetes | Mary | Tyler | Moore | diabetes | diabetic | retinopathy

Mary Tyler Moore's Battle With Diabetic Vision Loss

By    |   Thursday, 29 May 2014 02:21 PM

The recent disclosure that TV legend Mary Tyler Moore is struggling with the loss of her eyesight has highlighted a health condition that has become increasingly common amid the nation's diabetes epidemic: diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes afflicts an estimated 26 million Americans, and all of them are at risk for retinopathy, which has left Moore nearly blind.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one-third of adults with diabetes have some vision issues, and experts say that rate is sharply escalating. A study published in 2012 in Review of Optometry found that the rate of diabetes retinopathy has nearly doubled over the past 10 years. Some 8 million Americans now suffer from the vision-impairing condition.  
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However, along with the dramatic increase have come new treatments that can help prevent blindness, although they apparently are too late to save Moore’s eyesight, which is nearly gone, her friends say.
“Her eyesight is the big problem right now,” Betty White, a costar on The Mary Tyler Moore Show said in an interview, noting that Moore is “almost to the point of being unable to see.”
Dick Van Dyke, who played Moore’s TV husband on The Dick Van Dyke Show, said he rarely sees Moore now because her illness has forced her to stay close to home. “She really hasn’t been too well. She’s really having a battle with it, I’m sorry to say,” Van Dyke said. 
Her close friend Valerie Harper, who is waging her own battle against brain cancer, said that Moore remains steadfastly upbeat despite “the ravages of diabetes.”
Another indication of the seriousness of her disease was that last summer Moore, the world’s top celebrity advocate for diabetes research, missed her traditional public appearance at the JDRF Children’s Congress. JDRF is the leading organization that raises money for Type 1 diabetes, for which Moore serves as the International Chairman. In an online column this week, journalist and diabetes advocate Moira McCarthy paid tribute to Moore’s work, noting sadly that she and her husband, Dr. Robert S. Levine, were noticeably absent from the national meeting, where they had been fixtures for years.
Moore was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 33. Now 77, she has spent the majority of her life fighting its complications. 
The actress has Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, but people with Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes are also at risk, says Ranya Habash, M.D., a board-certified ophthalmologist in private practice who has served as vice president of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology.
“Diabetic retinopathy occurs in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The damage it causes to both types can be severe, but it can sometimes be even more threatening to those with Type 2 diabetes because it comes on gradually, which means it can cause damage before it’s even diagnosed,” Dr. Habash said.
She also noted that diabetes usually isn’t as well-controlled in people with Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to spikes in blood sugar, causing damage to eyes.
Excess glucose, or sugar, builds up in the blood of people with diabetes, leaving deposits in the delicate optic vessels, which can cause them to swell and become leaky. “This leads to the suffocation of blood vessels, and also causes new vessels to form where they shouldn’t,” Dr. Habash said.
Today, lasers are used to cauterize the leaky blood vessels and keep them from growing where they should not be, a process called photocoagulation, she said. In addition, she noted, “If the aberrant blood vessels start to bleed into the jelly of the eye, which is called a vitreous hemorrhage, we can perform surgery called a vitrectomy during which a tiny suction is placed to remove the blood and clear the patient’s vision.”
Other treatments today include injecting an anti-cancer drug called a VEGF-inhibitor  into the eye, which can dry up retinal fluid that causes swelling, as well as help suppress the growth of abnormal blood vessels, increasing vision dramatically, she said.
But back when Moore began suffering diabetic retinopathy, the treatments may have actually made her condition worse. “Today, we use lasers on the side of the eye, but when they were first used, the procedure was done in the center of the eye, which led to blind spots,” said Dr. Habash.
Moore has also battled a benign brain tumor, which could have affected her vision, said Dr. Habash. In 2011, the actress underwent surgery to remove a benign meningioma.
There are important steps that people with diabetes can take to avoid vision loss, said Dr. Habash:
• Make sure to have regular eye exams during which your eyes are dilated so the vessels can be checked. In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms and can be causing damage.
• People with diabetes, as well as “pre-diabetes,” known also as “borderline” diabetes, must control their blood sugar as tightly and consistently as possible.
• Keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control as well.
• Avoid “binge” days that can result in a spike in blood sugar. “If your blood sugar is controlled five days a week and it goes sky-high two days a week, this is when the damage can occur,” Dr. Habash said.

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The recent disclosure that TV legend Mary Tyler Moore is struggling with the loss of her eyesight has highlighted a health condition that has become increasingly common amid the nation's diabetes epidemic: diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes afflicts an estimated 26 million...
Mary, Tyler, Moore, diabetes, diabetic, retinopathy, eyesight
Thursday, 29 May 2014 02:21 PM
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