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Wills Eye hosting vision screening event in Philadelphia to help protect vision in diabetic patients

Philadelphia event aims to prevent vision loss in diabetic patients
Philadelphia event aims to prevent vision loss in diabetic patients 02:15

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Diabetes is an epidemic in Philadelphia, and it can cause serious complications, including blindness. There will be a special event on Saturday in Philadelphia to help people protect their vision.

Wills Eye on Diabetes Day is all about early detection — protecting vision when it can be preserved — and raising awareness, especially for people with diabetes, about the importance of eye exams.

High school sweethearts Hermilinda and Richard Ortiz do everything together, including yard work at their home in Croydon.

"I couldn't see life without her," Richard Ortiz said. 

And now Hermilinda Ortiz is seeing better after Richard Ortiz insisted she get her eyes checked. 

"I didn't want to do it at all," Hermilinda Ortiz said.

"If I would have ignored that, my wife would be sitting next to me blind," Richard Ortiz said.

Doctors found Hermilinda Ortiz had macular edema caused by her diabetes. She was also having mini-strokes.

"I thought there was nothing wrong," Hermilinda Ortiz said.

Doctors say it happens all the time: People with diabetes don't have obvious symptoms of eye disease.

"Diabetes is actually one of the most common causes for vision loss in adults in the United States of America and in the world. And one of the biggest things is that these changes start off very mild without any symptoms," Dr. Ajay Kuriyan, of Wills Eye Hospital, said.

Kuriyan said diabetic eye conditions can be effectively treated when found early.

"So it's really key to catch this early," Kuriyan said.

That's why Wills is holding its annual free diabetic eye screenings on Saturday.

"The important thing here is that we can actually help prevent some of the worst changes that can happen, that can really impact the vision by catching this disease early and treating it," Kuriyan said.

Hermilinda Ortiz, who was reluctant to get screened, is now a big proponent.

"You don't know what's going on in your body," she said.

Now, she's working out and getting eye treatments to prevent vision loss.

Wanting to watch her grandson grow up, Hermilinda Ortiz said she's now committed to taking better care of herself.

"My grandson gave me inspiration to keep going," she said.

The Diabetes Day eye screenings are Saturday morning at Wills Eye. Appointments are required and can be made on the Wills Eye website. There will be similar events at Penn and Temple.

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