By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
August 29, 2014
- What your doctor forgot to tell you about diabetes
- This is what sugar does to your vision
- Best ways to protect your sight and independence
My diabetic patients are a real concern to me. That’s because diabetes places everyone at a higher risk of heart disease, nerve damage, kidney problems and even Alzheimer’s. But there’s another health threat many of them find surprising.
You see, diabetes is also the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S.
This is a real problem. It’s something your primary healthcare provider doesn’t look for. They don’t test for it either. In fact, many of them won’t even warn you about it.
The truth is, only about half of Americans who have vision loss are even aware it could be linked to diabetes. Even fewer have ever been told by their doctors that diabetes might be affecting their eyesight.
This is frightening news. Your eyesight means everything to your independence. It’s the difference between being able to read, drive and work as long as you want – or counting on others to “be your eyes.”
When your vision is impaired, normal activities can become challenging. Even things that used to be fun can turn into a chore. And it’s not just a case of correcting your vision with reading glasses or prescription lenses.
Let me explain the role blood sugar has on your eyesight.
If you’re diabetic and don’t take appropriate measures to control your blood sugar, it can change the structure and function of blood vessels throughout your body… but especially the ones in your eyes.
This can result in a condition called diabetic retinopathy.
In a nutshell, the small blood vessels that nourish your retinas weaken and break down. They start leaking blood and other fluids that make things look blurry. You might even see dark spots or blank areas in your vision.
If left unchecked, this can progress into something called diabetic macular edema (DME). This occurs when those retinal blood vessels start leaking fluid into the macula. These leaks cause the macula to swell and thicken – and can severely affect your central vision.
In the early stages, it’s easy to shrug off these vision changes to a normal part of aging. You might even spend a few bucks on reading glasses, hoping to find just the right lens to reduce the blur. I find a lot of my patients try going this route instead of visiting their eye doctor.
But if you’re diabetic, it’s absolutely essential to get a proper eye exam every year, even if your vision hasn’t been affected yet. That’s because the earlier you catch any signs of damage, the better your chances of saving your eyesight.
For the most part, the tests aren’t anything outside of the ordinary. Your eye-care specialist will check your distance vision and measure the pressure inside your eyes. They’ll also dilate your eyes to look for things like abnormal blood vessels, scar tissue and retinal swelling.
If it’s suspected you have macular edema, you might also be given a test that takes pictures of the retina as dye circulates through the blood vessels. This can show vessels that are closed, damaged or leaking fluid.
In addition to getting regular eye exams, here are a few other tips to help you protect your precious eyes.
The best thing you can do – even if you haven’t been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – is control your blood sugar. I say this because about 86 million people here in the U.S. are pre-diabetic. If you’re one of them, you’re walking a fine line.
Avoiding high-glycemic carbohydrates and processed foods is top priority. This includes foods like breakfast cereals, breads, pastas and soft drinks that make your blood sugar soar. Staying active and getting your body in motion is also important. A good half hour walk every day interspersed with bursts of intensity is a good starting point.
I also suggest supplementing with something called chlorogenic acid. This natural compound helps block the absorption of sugar in your intestines. And it even goes a step further. It also suppresses your liver from producing glucose after a meal.
You probably already get a little bit of chlorogenic acid in your diet. That’s because it naturally occurs in coffee and tea. But it’s probably not enough.
There’s a green coffee bean extract that contains about 270% higher concentrations of chlorogenic acid than coffee. And it’s a very easy way to keep your blood sugar under control. All it takes is 200 mg. twice a day before your heaviest meals to keep your blood sugar in check.
Providing your eyes with the nutrients they need to thrive is also an urgent priority.
Here’s my prescription for protecting your vision as you age. Make sure you’re getting each of these natural sight savers every day:
- At least 10 mg. of lutein
- 3 mg. of zeaxanthin
- 100 mg. of bilberry
- 60-120 mg. of ginkgo biloba
- 260 mg. of n-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
- 500 mg. of vitamin C
- 200 IU of vitamin E
It pays big dividends to protect the vision you have with an eye-friendly diet, plenty of physical activity and these smart supplements.
And don’t forget! Get checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist annually to keep an eye on your vision health.
Bressler NM, et al. “Underuse of the health care system by persons with diabetes mellitus and diabetic macular edema in the United States.” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014 Feb;132(2):168-73.
Henry-Vitrac C, et al. “Contribution of chlorogenic acids to the inhibition of human hepatic glucose-6-phosphatase activity in vitro by Svetol, a standardized decaffeinated green coffee extract.” J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):4141-4.