WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — May is Healthy Vision Month, and one local American Diabetes Association volunteer, Randall Barker, wants everyone to know just how important taking care of your vision is, especially if you’re living with diabetes.

It’s a disease that affects more than 30 million Americans each day, and the diagnosis rate in Wichita County is on the rise.

“Almost 80% are unaware that they may even have diabetes, and with diabetes, one of the leading complications are vision problems,” Barker said.

Randall Barker has Type-1 diabetes and says he was someone who didn’t know just how serious those vision problems could be until he woke up one morning unable to see out of one of his eyes.

“Oh ‘What is going on?’ and I make an appointment with the doctor because I’m thinking this is vision, this is not something I can wrap a Band-Aid on, I can’t see over here,” Barker said.

Barker has been living with diabetes for more than 30 years, but learning that he had diabetic retinopathy is what made him want to do more. That’s why he began volunteering with the American Diabetes Association, in an effort to raise awareness of their eye health initiative.

Barker has had three separate eye surgeries in just three years, and he urges everyone to prioritize their eye health, especially if you have diabetes.

“What the diagnosis was was that I had a hemorrhage on that retina that had ruptured, and it actually caused my retina to detach and fill the retina with blood, and that’s why I couldn’t see it was actually blood,” Barker said.

Luckily for Barker, this was caught early enough to do the surgery to save his vision, but many people aren’t that lucky. That’s why going to your yearly physical exams and visitng your optometrist at least once a year is key.

“Do I want to do that or do I want to be blind?” Barker said. “Like you said, you only have two eyes, once they’re gone, they’re gone, so I think an ounce of prevention is worth it.”

An ounce of prevention could have a great impact on your health.

United Regional offers a diabetes prevention program that helps teach healthy habits. Their next information session on the program will be Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

The session will be held at 1600 10th street. For more information, please call (940) 764-8190.