Diabetic retinopathy, or vision loss due to diabetes, is the number one cause of vision loss in the U.S. and affects more than 5 million Americans.
Sean O'Toole found out he had Type 2 diabetes about two years ago.
"I had a mild heart attack so the hospital told me I had a weak heart and I was put in medications, and as they were figuring all that out is when they checked for the diabetes," he said.
Since diabetics are at a high risk of vision loss, O'Toole made sure got his eyes checked using University Health System's IRIS program, which tests for diabetic retinopathy, or vision loss.
"They actually do that right at the doctor's office, so you don't have to go to an eye doctor. That saves a lot of time and a lot of money in gas for people that can't work," said O'Toole.
"If there are signs of diabetic retinopathy, or changes to the back of the eye due to diabetes, then we can set them up with an ophthalmologist we have in our system," said University Health System physician Dr. Patrick Pierre.
Since the University Health System IRIS program began just over one year ago, more than 5,000 patients have been seen. That's an average of 474 patients every month.
More than half had some sort of pathology, one in 7 had diabetic retinopathy, and one in five were considered "IRIS saves."
"My eyes are fine, but my wife's eyes are a little bit worse than mine. They sent her to the ophthalmologist because of it," said O'Toole.
Having both diabetes and recent heart issues, O'Toole said he has to take it easy but still get exercise.
"I try to walk my dogs about 2-3 times a day," O'Toole said.
O'Toole warns all men with diabetes to take control of the disease before the body falls apart.
"You never know what you have until you are missing it, and when your vision goes, it doesn't come back. It doesn't get better," he said.
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