POMPANO BEACH, Fla. -

Carlos Infante has lived with diabetes for more than 15 years. The condition slowly began robbing him of his eyesight.

"Glasses weren't helping," said Infante.

A condition called diabetic retinopathy was destroying his vision.

"What happens is the blood vessels start leaking some fluid and sometimes actually little dots of blood appear on the macula on the retina," said Dr. Carl Danzig with the Rand Eye Institute. "Occasionally, new blood vessels can grow in areas they shouldn't be, and these are fragile blood vessels, and they may cause scar tissue or bleed into the eye."

Infante lost his vision in his right eye and then his left eye began deteriorating.

"Carlos came in with no balance, no depth perception, the inability to actually walk straight," said Dr. William Rand with the Rand Eye Institute. "He was tremendously visually impaired."

Up to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy. Fortunately, there are surgical techniques that can repair the damage.

Infante went through two surgeries at the Rand Eye Institute. In the first, a cataract that formed as a result of his diabetes was removed.

"When I first saw Carlos before his surgery, he could not even see the big E. He could only see fingers in front of his face," said Danzig.

"I couldn't do anything. I was pretty much disabled," said Infante.

Two months after the cataract surgery, Infante went through another procedure to repair bleeding vessels in his eye.

"His prognosis right now is actually pretty good. It's probable that Carlos will have a lifetime of good vision if he controls his blood sugar," said Rand.

"It's just a big 100 percent percent difference and maybe taking care of my diabetes would have prevented it, but that's in the past. What can I do?" said Infante.

Often there are no symptoms in the early stage of diabetic retinopathy.