Brad Stevens, a 37-year-old from Boyceville, Wisconsin, has Type 1 diabetes. Often diagnosed in childhood, the disease is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. As a result of his diabetes, Brad developed diabetic retinopathy, an eye disorder caused by damage to the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of the eye. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can eventually threaten a person's vision.
Brad also developed a serious complication of diabetic retinopathy called vitreous hemorrhage, or bleeding in the eye, along with retinal detachment. That led to severe vision loss in his right eye. He was at risk for total vision loss if the condition was not aggressively treated.
"I was seeing a big blur spot in my vision. It was getting darker and darker and harder to see," says Brad, a father of two who enjoys hunting, fishing and anything outdoors.
That's when Brad went to see Wayne Wu, M.D., in the Eye Care Center at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
When Dr. Wu first examined him in August 2016, Brad had reasonable 20/30 vision in his left eye but next to no vision and a total retinal detachment in his right eye. He also had advanced proliferative diabetic retinopathy in his left eye. That meant he was on the brink of bleeding and developing a situation in his left eye similar to the one that already had materialized in his right.
A week after that appointment, Dr. Wu performed a type of eye surgery known as a vitrectomy on Brad's right eye, along with a laser treatment to repair the detached retina.
"Basically, we removed the blood and fixed the retinal detachment, and then performed laser treatment on the outside," says Dr. Wu. "We also put a gas bubble in the eye, which remained in the eye for several weeks to help the retina to heal."
Using laser treatment, Dr. Wu stabilized Brad's left eye to avoid future complications in that eye.
Brad's surgery went well. Now, more than a year later, he says he's highly satisfied with his visual function.
"I've seen a lot of improvement," says Brad, who has resumed all of his normal activities, including reading and driving. "It seems like it always gets clearer and clearer."
At Brad's most recent follow-up appointment, he had 20/30 vision in his right eye and 20/25 vision in his left. And because of the treatment, his damaged retina has stabilized. As long as Brad continues to control his diabetes, Dr. Wu believes his condition will remain stable long term.
Brad says he can't thank Dr. Wu and his medical team enough for the high level of care they provided him.
"I rate their care a 10 out of 10, and Dr. Wu is excellent," Brad says, noting that Dr. Wu provided a thorough explanation of everything he was going to do, which Brad found comforting.
"At the same time, he didn't overshoot the expectation," Brad says. "When I became better than what he told me I should expect, that was even better."