Diagnosed at age 11: How Dubai resident battled loss of vision, diabetes with lifestyle change

Three years ago, Khan developed diabetic retinopathy – a long-term complication of the illness that affects the eyes


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Mon 14 Nov 2022, 3:35 PM

A 32-year-old Dubai-based Pakistani banker who has been fighting diabetes since he turned 11, including weeks spent on a ventilator, has managed to control his blood sugar levels within the normal range by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Imran Rafi Khan has had a tough battle with the condition.

“Diabetics has affected almost everybody in my family from my grandfather, father, brother, to me. But unlike [the] others, who have Type 2 diabetes, I was diagnosed with Type 1 when I was barely 11,” said Khan.

While in Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, in Type 1, it doesn’t make any at all. Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include feeling thirstier than usual, excessive urination, increased hunger, weight loss, increased fatigue, weakness and irritation, and blurry vision.


“It has not been easy for me. I have been through excruciatingly painful experiences.”

At 11 old, when he was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Khan's blood sugar levels were between 400-600 mg/dL. A blood sugar level of less than 140 mg/dL is considered normal – Khan’s was four times that amount.

“I was kept on the ventilator for 20 days undergoing [an] insulin infusion. It was a tough time, but fortunately, I came out of it stronger.”

However, life had more in store for him. Discharged from the hospital, Khan used to take about 60 units of insulin at a time, twice a day, to keep his blood sugar levels under control – depriving him of the many joys he could have had as a boy.

'I couldn’t see anything'

About three years ago, Khan started experiencing a blurring of vision.

“I already have [glasses]. Initially, it was like, when I woke up, everything [was] blurred for some time. I could not see anything near or far from me clearly. Later, I observed that I [was finding] difficult to see objects [clearly] while driving.”

Dr Boopathy Selvam
Dr Boopathy Selvam

He then consulted Dr Boopathy Selvam, specialist ophthalmologist at Aster Hospital, Qusais, who diagnosed Khan with diabetic retinopathy – a long-term complication of diabetes that affects the eyes.

According to Dr Selvam, Khan’s right eye was more affected compared to his left eye.

“We started with an intravitreal injection in both eyes. We performed laser surgery in the right eye as well. Gradually, we [started seeing] the results. So far, we have managed to control the damage with six injections in the right eye, and five injections in the left eye. It has been four months since we stopped the injections, and Imran is doing perfectly fine,” Dr Selvam said.

Diet and healthy lifestyle

After 21 years of battling the disease, Khan has now brought his diabetes under control by following a strict diet and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

“I eat everything but very cautiously, in lesser quantities. Typically, my day starts by drinking a glass of water with turmeric overnight soaked and black seeds. Then, I go out for a brisk walk for 30 minutes.

Back at home, I take my insulin before having my breakfast. I need to eat something [every] 2-3 hours to keep my blood sugar levels under control. In the evening, I go out for a 30 minute-long walk, and [once back home], I take my insulin shot before having my dinner,” Khan explained.

Currently, his blood sugar is between 100-150 mg/dL in the morning and between 120-200 mg/dL in the evening – the threshold he must not go beyond. His haemoglobin A1c and average glucose levels for three months are at 8 now, which Khan aims to bring down to 7 in the coming months.

World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14 every year.

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