Diabetic Nan warns others to take care of their eyesight, as she admits she should have taken more care over diet

Newtownabbey woman Nan Murray, 82, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in her early 50s, wants to help make others diagnosed with the condition more aware of the effect uncontrolled blood sugars could have on their sight.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 11:53 am
Updated Monday, 14th June 2021, 3:16 pm
Nan Murray with her youngest great grandchild Elodie

Now registered severely sight impaired due to progressive diabetic retinopathy, Nan said: “If I knew what I now know, how the diabetes could affect my sight so much, I would’ve been much more careful.”

“It didn’t affect my sight at first. I started off just watching what I was eating. Gradually though, I lost that fear and starting eating more of what I shouldn’t. My blood sugars were high and erratic. The doctor put me on tablets for a while to help stabilise them, but my eyesight started deteriorating.”

She added: “I noticed it in my right eye first when I was in work in my last role in my mid 60s. My vision went blurry looking at the screen. It turned out my retina at the back of my eye has been damaged. I’ve experienced a lot of bleeds which have really blurred my vision and cause it to be patchy. Sometimes they’ve cleared on their own but I’ve had quite a few surgeries on my eyes now, including laser and a vitrectomy, which did help and delay any further sight loss, for a while. Thankfully I was able to work right up to, and a little beyond retirement but my sight has got a fair bit worse since those days.”

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Nan, an avid reader, said thanks to advice and training from RNIB’s Technology for Life team she uses a Kindle and tablet now to keep reading.

“I would be lost without it, especially during the lockdowns! I still have one level of magnification left before I might have to start thinking about audio books, and I’m really just not there yet.”

The great-grandmother, who is sharing her story during this Diabetes Week, added: “To anyone who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, or is at risk, I would say: ‘Be very careful with your eating’.

“If you have developed sight loss like me, maybe recently, I’d say: ‘You just have to keep trying.’ Keep trying different things to help. Get advice from RNIB and others. You don’t know what’s available in your own area or by just lifting the phone. And I’ll try to take my own advice too!”

There are now 100,000 people in NI living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. This shocking number includes the estimated 12,000 who have not yet been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, all of whom are at increased risk of diabetic eye disease as well as glaucoma and cataracts.