Healthy diet, timely treatment spare grandfather from diabetic blindness

Meet an Ohio man with diabetic retinopathy who had his eyes opened – literally – to the importance of a healthy diet. Thanks to treatment and dietary changes, he can see clearly again.

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CLEVELAND – In 2000, Mark Campbell, while in his early thirties, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and occurs when the body doesn’t properly make use of the insulin it produces.

Despite years of extensive cardio workouts and weight lifting, in addition to taking prescribed medications, the former college football player was unable to prevent the onset of additional diabetes-related problems for one primary reason – a poor diet.

“I felt like if I would just workout, things would get better,” said Campbell. “For years, I gave myself insulin shots, and took more than 25 pills every day. But I lost kidney function, my weight shot up and then my vision went bad. I didn’t realize, at the time, that I could have done more to make it better.”

In 2017, Campbell was suffering from blurry vision due to a blood vessel that burst in his left eye. He visited Rishi Singh, M.D., a retina surgeon at Cleveland Clinic.

Campbell was suffering from an advanced state of diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition that affects the retinas of people with diabetes. It usually occurs as a result of high blood sugar (glucose) over a long period of time.

Soon after he began treatment, which included receiving an injectable drug directly into his eye, Campbell began losing vision in his right eye, too.

“Now, I couldn’t see out of either eye; I was blind; I couldn’t work; I couldn’t see my grandkids,” he said.

Dr. Singh performed laser photocoagulation treatments for leaking blood vessels in the retina, followed by retina surgery in each eye, and Campbell’s vision was fully restored.

With Dr. Singh’s urging, Campbell’s life was restored in other ways, too.

“Diabetics often assume that because they are diabetic, their vision will not be as good, and that’s simply not true,” said Dr. Singh. “By controlling your diet, and other factors related to diabetes, you can prevent these conditions from occurring or from advancing at a faster rate.”

Campbell, who used to weigh more than 400 pounds, is now approaching his target weight of 195, thanks to a healthy approach to his diet.

“It’s what you’re putting in your mouth that can really affect your diabetes,” he said. “And I didn’t make diet a priority, like I do now.”

For the past few years, Campbell has been practicing a modified, low-carb ketogenic diet. He eats meats and vegetables, consumes several nutrient-rich smoothies and drinks plenty of water each day. He avoids bread and pasta, and eats very little cheese and eggs.

Campbell said he has more energy and feels healthier now, than at any time since playing football at West Virginia State University more than 30 years ago.

“I’ve lost 100 pounds, and I’ve gone from 980 units of insulin a week down to 30 or 40; I also take just one pill each day,” he said.

According to Dr. Singh, the prognosis for Campbell’s vision is good, with regular exams and treatment.

And while Campbell must still undergo daily hemodialysis treatment, at home, as he awaits a kidney transplant, he has returned to work and is pursuing life with renewed vigor.

“Through it all, I’m thankful for everything that happened to me,” he said. “I finally have the strength and discipline to live a healthier life.”

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