For Natalie Tomlinson, 38, from Sheldon, it is especially fitting that her birthday this Wednesday falls on World Diabetes Day and her daughter Neave’s just two days before. Having been diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of 14, Natalie’s eyesight was affected by diabetic retinopathy, a condition where the blood vessels in the eye leak. Known to cause great risk to eyesight during pregnancy, Natalie took all appropriate measures before and during her pregnancy with regular check-ups through the diabetic eye screening programme at Heartlands Hospital. Natalie also underwent laser treatment to seal the blood vessels inher eyes to keep them stable.
However, with pregnancy making the control of blood sugar levels more difficult, at 33 weeks of pregnancy in 2009, Natalie developed a haemorrhage in her left eye, affecting her vision drastically. As a result, baby Neave was delivered early at 36 weeks via caesarean section. Thankfully Natalie’s sight was maintained.
Natalie said: “Celebrating Neave’s birthday next week and my birthday always feels extra special because of everything we went through during my pregnancy. When I was considering having a child, although there is no guarantee my sight would have been saved, the specialists were fantastic and gave me all the information I needed. I wanted them to be honest. I was risking my whole life – I work in a customer complaints department, which involves using a computer, and had to go from full to part time work. I also had to consider whether I would be able to look after a new baby and see her grow up properly. Professor Gibson and the rest of the staff at Heartlands were fantastic during this time. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have my sight now.
“I think when you have diabetes, you can take your health for granted and it’s not until there is an impact on, like in my case, my sight, that you sit up and take notice. If you have diabetes, you must attend screening appointments and keep the tightest controls on your condition as you can. If you are struggling, I would advise asking for help.”
Consultant ophthalmologist, professor Jonathan Gibson, said: “Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in people of working age in the UK. Unfortunately, one in five diabetes patients in the West Midlands do not attend these vital screenings. I would urge anyone invited to go to diabetic eye screening appointments so early diabetic eye changes can be detected, aiding swift diagnosis and treatment where appropritate.”
For further information about the diabetic eye screening programme please contact: 0121 424 0655.