Author Sidebar: When I was in the hospital during the coma episode, my vision became blurred because my blood sugar was too high. The doctors and nurses assured me that my vision would return to normal once my blood glucose stabilized. And, they were right -- a few weeks after I got home from the hospital, my blurred vision subsided.
Up until then, I had taken my eyesight for granted. I never realized how important my eyesight was until I struggled with reading the newspaper and my computer. Even though this was years ago, I still remember what it was like not being able to read clearly, especially when I was using my computer to do some research about diabetes and nutrition.
After I published my book and ended up in the newspaper, during various health fairs, church talks and other community events, I met quite a few people who were struggling with their eyesight.
Even though some of them still bought my book, they asked me if I would think about creating an audio book or writing a new book with larger text.
Eventually, I created a larger version of my 6" x9" paperback book -- an 8½" x 11" Death to Diabetes spiral-bound booklet. Naturally, people with vision problems loved the new book.
However, I discovered that people who didn't have vision problems loved the new book also! Why? Because the spiral-bound booklet was easier to read because it lay flat. Plus, there was a lot of "white space" on each page so that they could write their own notes.
Later on, I created a Death to Diabetes "audio book", which consists of MP3 files of my book chapters. These files can be downloaded to your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Health Tip: Most people are aware that herbs such as bilberry help to strengthen the fragile blood vessels in the retina. However, what you may not know is that instead of taking bilberry in the form of a capsule or pill, use an organic herbal tincture. Why? Because the bilberry will be absorbed more readily.
After the kidneys, the eyes are usually the second major organ that is damaged by the effects of diabetes.
The signs of damage to the eyes include blurry vision, spots, and loss of vision, which can lead to blindness if the macula is damaged and/or if there is a loss of blood supply to the retina.
Some of the major eye ailments associated with diabetes include:
-- Diabetic Retinopathy
-- Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD or ARMD)
Key Point: If you are having any vision problems, the most important thing that you can do for your eyes is to get a complete eye exam from an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
The retina is a nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and helps send images to the brain, similar to film in a camera. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to blood vessels of the retina, leading to the loss of vision and even blindness.
In the initial stages (called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy), the arteries in the retina become weakened and leak fluid or blood, forming small, dot-like hemorrhages. This can blur or distort the images that the retina sends to the brain leading to blurred vision, called “background retinopathy”.
In the next stage (proliferative retinopathy), circulation problems cause areas of the retina to become oxygen-deprived or ischemic. New, fragile blood vessels develop in the retina and branch out into the vitreous humor in the middle of the eye as the circulatory system attempts to maintain adequate oxygen levels within the retina. This is called neovascularization.
Unfortunately, these blood vessels are fragile and hemorrhage easily, causing blood to leak into the retina and vitreous. This creates spots or floaters, causing a decrease in vision and scarring. In the later stages of the disease, continued abnormal blood vessel growth and scar tissue cause serious problems such as retinal detachment and glaucoma.
The likelihood and severity of retinopathy increase with the duration of diabetes and is likely to be worse if blood glucose is poorly controlled. Almost all people who have had diabetes for more than 30 years will show signs of diabetic retinopathy, as it is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans.
Diagnosis & Tests
The diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy is made following a detailed examination of the retina with an ophthalmoscope. Ophthalmoscopy is an examination of the back part of the eyeball (fundus), which includes the retina, optic disc, choroid, and blood vessels.
Ophthalmoscopy is performed as part of a routine physical or complete eye examination to detect and evaluate symptoms of retinal detachment and eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts.
Most patients with diabetic retinopathy are referred to vitreo-retinal surgeons who specialize in treating this disease.
Here are some of the more common eye and vision tests that you are likely to encounter during a comprehensive eye exam:
The Snellen Eye Chart: This chart is used as a starting point in determining your prescription.
Visual Acuity Tests: Among the first tests performed in a comprehensive eye exam are visual acuity tests that measure the sharpness of your vision.
Color Blindness Test: A screening test that checks your color vision often is performed early in a comprehensive eye exam to rule out color blindness.
Cover Test: While there are many ways for your eye doctor to check how your eyes work together, the cover test is the simplest and most common.
Ocular Motility (Eye Movements) Testing: Ocular motility testing is performed to determine how well your eyes can follow a moving object and/or quickly move between and accurately fixate on two separate targets.
Stereopsis (Depth Perception) Test: Stereopsis is the term used to describe eye teaming that enables normal depth perception and appreciation of the 3-dimensional nature of objects.
Retinoscopy: Your eye doctor may perform this test early in the eye exam to obtain an approximation of your eyeglass prescription.
Refraction: This is the test that your eye doctor uses to determine your exact eyeglass prescription.
Slit Lamp Exam: A slit lamp is a binocular microscope (or "biomicroscope") that your eye doctor uses to examine the structures of your eye under high magnification. It looks somewhat like a large, upright version of a microscope used in a science lab.
The Glaucoma Test: Testing for glaucoma typically begins with measuring the pressure inside your eyes.A common glaucoma test is the "puff-of-air" test, technically known as non-contact tonometry, or NCT.
Pupil Dilation: To obtain a better view of the eye's internal structures, your eye doctor instills dilating drops to enlarge your pupils. Dilating drops usually take about 20 to 30 minutes to start working.
Visual Field Test: In some cases, your eye doctor may want to check for the possible presence of blind spots (scotomas) in your peripheral or "side" vision by performing a visual field test. These types of blind spots can originate from eye diseases such as glaucoma.
Diabetics are twice as likely to develop eye diseases such as cataract and glaucoma.
A cataract is a clouding or opaque area that develops over the lens of the eye, and thickens, preventing light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina.
You may have a cataract if you need a stronger light for reading or sewing, but, no matter how bright the light, your vision seems dim; or, the glare of a car’s headlights makes it difficult to see.
The primary causes of cataracts include glycosylation and oxidation -- due to the accumulated exposure to ultraviolet sunlight, tobacco, or diabetes with uncontrolled glucose levels that damage the proteins in the eye lens.
Consequently, one of the key strategies to either slow down or even prevent the formation of a cataract is to reduce the amount of glycosylation and oxidation – by wearing sunglasses and eating foods and supplements that contain antioxidants, e.g. spinach, red grapes, carrots, bilberry, beta carotene, Vitamin C, l-carnosine, astaxanthin.
Studies continue to show that people with cataracts tend to have low serum levels of beta carotene and Vitamin C. These nutrients will not cure cataracts, but they will prevent further damage. Even after someone has had cataract surgery, he/she will still need to consider antioxidant nutrients, otherwise, the new lens will become cloudy from the same oxidative process.
Glaucoma is an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. Glaucoma is called the “sneak thief” of sight because it has no obvious signs at first – it is painless and has no effect on vision. By the time you notice that your vision has deteriorated, glaucoma has done its damage. Consequently, annual exams are a must, especially if glaucoma runs in your family.
A normal eye is filled with fluid, which drains through tissue between the iris and the cornea. With glaucoma, the draining of the fluid slows down or stops completely as the eyes’ “drainage pipes” become backed up like a clogged drain. The backup of the fluid builds intraocular pressure throughout the eye, damaging blood vessels that feed the retina and optic nerve. Without the proper nutrients, the optic nerve begins to die, and so does your vision.
It is important to note that many people with glaucoma don’t realize there is a loss of vision because they don’t actually “see” dark areas – there are no visible “walls” of the so-called “tunnel”. People with peripheral vision loss just have a narrower visual field. People with normal vision see images of their surroundings and have a naturally limited range of vision. They do not “see” darkness all around them.
People with glaucoma don’t “see” darkness either – they just see less of their surroundings. This is why annual eye exams are so important – they can catch the glaucoma before irreparable damage is done.
Once your doctor diagnoses glaucoma, eye drop medication will be necessary to reduce the eye pressure and prevent any further loss of vision. High doses of supplements such as natural Vitamin C with bioflavonoids (1000 to 2000 mg) and bilberry/eyebright (350 to 500 mg) may help to draw fluid out of the eye, but this has not been completely verified with any well-controlled clinical studies.
In general, for good eye health, avoid the processed foods, drink raw vegetable juices, and eat more green vegetables and bright-colored vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and red/yellow/orange peppers for the carotenoids, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. Also, eat wild salmon and egg yolks for the Omega-3s.
The macula is responsible for central, most highly focused vision. It is a small yellowish area at the center of the retina.
The macula receives its yellow color from the pigments of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Zeaxanthin is most highly concentrated in the macula and lutein predominates in other areas of the retina.
The yellow color of the macula allows it to absorb blue to UV light and behave like sunglasses for the center of the retina, protecting the most important part of the retina from UV's damaging effects.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD or ARMD) is the gradual breakdown of the cells of the macula cells which are responsible for your central vision, the point where your vision is most exact.
The deterioration weakens your ability to read, write, drive, and recognize faces, which are all activities requiring healthy central vision. Peripheral, or side vision isn't damaged.
Most people with AMD have dry macular degeneration. In dry macular degeneration tiny, yellow drusens develop. Drusens are accumulations of fatty, yellow material that form in the macula and people with ARMD have more and larger drusens.
These drusens are thought to be comprised of waste proteins and lipids (oily material) that begin to accumulate due to poor circulation and waste-flushing in the eye. Antioxidants are important for the normal waste-clearing process. The drusen slowly crowd, distort, or break the cells in the macula leading to deterioration and resulting in blurred vision.
The second type of macular degeneration is the "wet" form, (also known as choroidal neovascularization) in which new blood vessels begin to develop near the macula, causing fast and serious vision loss.
Wet macular degeneration can result from progression of dry macular degeneration, left untreated, and affects about 10% of macular degeneration patients.
Symptoms of AMD
Symptoms associated with AMD include:
- Lines look distorted or wavy in people with AMD.
- Shapes look blurred, fuzzy, or hazy in central vision
- Colors appear more dim and less distinct
- Words are hard to read because they are blurred
- Blank or dark areas hide the center area of your vision
- The center of vision looks foggy or cloudy
Note: Do not try to self-diagnose! -- see your ophthalmologist and get a complete eye exam.
FYI: The health of the macula is responsive to diet, lifestyle and nutritional changes. As a result, the debilitating effects of a damaged macula can frequently be slowed, stopped, or even reversed. But, don't wait for your vision to deteriorate -- get the Death to Diabetes book and make changes now!
Laser Surgery for Diabetic Retinopathy
Laser surgery is done to reduce the risk of vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy. It is most often used to stabilize vision and prevent future vision loss rather than to improve vision loss that has already occurred.
Unfortunately, since laser surgery burns and destroys part of the retina, this causes some permanent vision loss, including a mild loss of central vision, reduced night vision, and decreased ability to focus.
Some people may lose some of their side (peripheral) vision. But the vision loss caused by laser treatment is mild compared with the vision loss that may be caused by untreated retinopathy.
Key Point: It is imperative that you keep your blood sugar levels low and in the normal range after laser treatment. In addition, you should eat a plant-based diet of green and bright-colored vegetables and other foods that contain the necessary nutrients that will help to strengthen the weakened blood vessels, i.e. bilberry, l-carnosine, carotenoids, antioxidants, Omega-3s. Even if your eyes are better, diabetic retinopathy will keep getting worse over time if your blood sugar levels rise again. This can lead to retina detachment and total vision loss over time.
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy depends on the stage of the disease and is directed at trying to slow or stop the progression of the disease.
In the early stages of Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, treatment other than regular monitoring may not be required.
Following your doctor's advice for diet and exercise and keeping blood sugar levels well-controlled can help control the progression of the disease.
Use a superior nutrition-based program (such as the Death to Diabetes Super Meal Nutritional Program) to eat more green vegetables, drink more raw vegetable juices, and eat foods with Omega-3s such as wild salmon, organic eggs, walnuts, and flaxseed.
This type of comprehensive diabetes wellness program will do more than just control your blood sugar: It will address the other biological processes that cause damage to the retina and its capillaries, e.g. cell inflammation, oxidation, toxicity, and glycation. In addition, it will help to strengthen the delicate capillaries and prevent further damage and leaking.
However, it is imperative to get started with this kind of nutritional program as soon as possible.
If the disease advances, leakage of fluid from blood vessels can lead to macular edema, because of weakened blood vessels. Laser treatment (photocoagulation) may be used to stop the leakage of blood and fluid into the retina. A laser beam of light can be used to create small burns in areas of the retina with abnormal blood vessels to try to seal the leaks.
When blood vessel growth is more widespread throughout the retina, as in proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a pattern of scattered laser burns is created across the retina. This causes abnormal blood vessels to shrink and disappear. With this procedure, some side vision may be lost in order to safeguard central vision.
Some bleeding into the vitreous gel may clear up on its own. However, if significant amounts of blood leak into the vitreous fluid in the eye, it will cloud vision and can prevent laser photocoagulation from being used.
A surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be used to remove the blood-filled vitreous and replace it with a clear fluid to maintain the normal shape and health of the eye.
Warning: However, be very careful: laser treatment has proven to cause more problems than it solves. The most important thing that you can do is to eat healthy to control your blood sugar and to strengthen the delicate blood vessels in your retina.
Persons with diabetic retinopathy can suffer significant vision loss. Special low vision devices such as telescopic and microscopic lenses, hand and stand magnifiers, and video magnification systems can be prescribed to make the most of remaining vision.
Note: If you have trouble reading the smaller text of the Death to Diabetes 6" x9" book, and would prefer to read larger text, then, get the 8½ x 11 version of the Death to Diabetes book.
Natural Remedies | Retinopathy | AMD
Eat lutein-rich and antioxidant-rich green, leafy vegetables and bright-colored vegetables, and (some) dark-colored fruits such as spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, carrots, zucchini, blueberries and egg yolks, which also contain zeaxanthin.
These carotenoids and antioxidants nourish and protect the eye tissues from oxidation and degeneration. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, which are the bioflavonoids responsible for the deep purple-blue color.
Other sources of anthocyanins include red grapes, cherries, pomegranates, and red cabbage. Red vegetables and fruits (e.g. tomatoes, red peppers) contain lycopene, another carotenoid that provides antioxidant protection to combat free radicals in the eye.
Drink 1-2 glasses of raw juice daily. A great way to get the key nutrients from leafy greens is juicing of green vegetables and some fruits (preferably organic).
Key vegetables, fruits and herbs include: ginger, garlic, leeks, parsley, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, spinach, kale, collard greens, apples, grapes, raspberries, lemon, chlorophyll, and wheat grasses.
Reduce/eliminate the consumption of the “dead” processed foods such as margarine and potato chips, which contain partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat). Trans fats appear to contribute to macular degeneration and may interfere with the Omega-3 fats.
Avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol. A 2005 review of 13 separate studies found that smoking increased the risk of developing of macular degeneration by three-fold. A 2015 study identified damage and inflammation caused by smoking to several layers of the macula.
Schedule regular eye examinations with an ophthalmologist at least once a year to detect any early signs of eye disease, such as small problems in the blood vessels of the retina.
Wear sunglasses that filter UVA, UVB and blue light to reduce the oxidative damage to the retina.
Avoid Drugs. Both prescription and non-prescription can damage the macular. Toxins in some drugs can be harmful while some drugs that make the eyes more sensitive to light are also harmful. Be aware of drugs that damage the macula.
Exercise Daily. Exercise is critical, not only for your vision health, but for overall health. In fact, exercise is the single-most important thing you can do for many health conditions.
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol. Keep insulin, blood glucose, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels in their normal ranges, preferably without the need for prescription drugs.
Take a wholefood-based supplement/herbal tincture that provides two or more of the following nutrients to complement your Super Meal program, close any nutritional gaps and support your eye health.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC): is one of the nutrients that can fuel the mitochondria in cells, including the photoreceptor cells in the retina. ALC may be able to cross the brain-retinal barrier to assist in cellular energy production in the retinal lining.
Astaxanthin: is the carotenoid responsible for the pink color of salmon and crustacean shells. Testing has shown its ability to cross the brain-retinal barrier to reduce oxidation in the eye tissues. Well-designed clinical trials (listed below) have shown that astaxanthin helps diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, eye strain and fatigue and seeing in fine detail.
Bilberry: contains anthocyanocides, which speed up the regeneration of rhodopsin (a purple pigment in the rods) to help the retina to improve adaptation to light and dark, improving night vision. Bilberry and other dark berries nourish the small capillaries that feed the retina to help treat diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts.
Note: Bilberry in the form of an organic herbal tincture is a lot more effective than bilberry capsules.
Eyebright: enhances circulation of blood vessels in the eyes to optimize the delivery of nutrients to every part of the eye including the eyelids. It is especially useful for eyestrain, eye inflammations, conjunctivitis, and other eye infections. Eyebright has anti-inflammatory, astringent properties that draw out secretions and discharges; and, can greatly relieve runny, sore, itchy eyes due to colds or allergies.
Fish oil: from wild salmon, sardines, other cold-water fish, and krill contains the Omega-3 EFA docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is the fat found in the retina’s photoreceptor cells; and, is protective against macular degeneration.
Ginkgo biloba: maintains and increases the flow of blood to the tiny capillaries of the eye, and helps maintain the elasticity and flexibility of the eye’s blood vessels.
Grapeseed extract: is a concentration of the oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) found in grape seeds and skins. It provides nutrient support to strengthen the walls of small capillaries to prevent capillary leakage in the eyes, legs and skin reducing fluid retention. It also provides antioxidant protection to safeguard the integrity of the retina and cornea of the eye.
Note: Grapeseed extract works synergistically with resveratrol.
L-carnosine: is a di-peptide (composed of the amino acids alanine and histidine) that is found in relatively high concentrations in several body tissues, most notably in skeletal muscle, heart muscle, nerve tissue and brain. Carnosine concentrates in the lens of the eye to slow down or prevent glycation and cataracts. A form of l-carnosine, in the form of eye drops, may prevent cataracts, according to recent research by Russian scientists.
Lutein, Zeaxanthin: are the colorful pigments in green, leafy and bright-colored vegetables and give the yellow color to corn and egg yolks. These carotenoids can be found in the macula, a tiny yellow dot in the center of the retina that lets you see fine details and helps you distinguish people’s faces.
They are the only two carotenoids present in the lens of the eye that help maintain proper lens density and play a role against free radical stress in the cortex of the lens. They act as “sunglasses” by absorbing the harmful UVA, UVB and blue light, helping to maintain the photoreceptors and lining of the retina.
Recent research shows that zeaxanthin is the more powerful antioxidant that protects the macula from the free radical oxidative damage caused by sunlight. Food sources: spinach, broccoli, greens, zucchini, eggs.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): helps to neutralize toxins by increasing glutathione, the principle antioxidant of the eye’s lens that protects it against oxidation. NAC helps the lens to register images clearly, and may help prevent retinopathy.
Pine bark extract: contains pycnogenol and is similar in composition to grape seed extract as it provides a similar benefit in strengthening blood vessels.
Quercetin: is a plant pigment (found in onions) that helps to maintain lens transparency by keeping out unwanted deposits of calcium and sodium. It also provides protection against cataracts in diabetics by blocking an enzyme inhibiting the accumulation of sorbitol, a type of blood sugar. Ultraviolet (UV) rays, particularly the burning UVB rays, damage proteins in the lens of the eye, causing them to clump together in a whitish cloud.
Resveratrol: is a polyphenol found in the skins of red grapes that acts as an antioxidant to protect the eyes from oxidative damage.
Selenium: acts as an antioxidant that helps to flush out toxic heavy metals from the eye tissues. Food sources: fish, grains, eggs, garlic, chicken.
Vitamin D3: Low levels of vitamin D3 in the body are associated with increases in macular degeneration symptoms. Vitamin D3 has anti-inflammation and anti-angiogenic capacities. Because Vitamin D3 has an important role in the immune system and aging process it is important in age-related conditions such as macular degeneration where the retina suffers age-related damage.
Zinc: supports the immune system; and, provides oxidative protection of the retina, which has a high concentration of zinc, more than any other organ. Food sources: meat, legumes, nuts.
AREDS Supplement: Another option for macular conditions are supplements based on the 2001 Age-Related Eye Disease Study that include vitamins C and E, zinc and beta-carotene. The AREDs formula is helpful, but there are other well researched essential nutrients that need to be included to keep your macula healthy. These include lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin, bilberry, essential fatty acids and other nutrients.
If you want to avoid any major problems with your eyes, we strongly recommend that you get a complete eye exam from an ophthalmologist (not an optometrist or optician) to evaluate your eye health.
An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists and opticians in their levels of training and in what they can diagnose and treat.
As a medical doctor who has completed college and at least eight years of additional medical training, an ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery.
An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.
An optometrist is a healthcare professional who provides primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes.
An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, preceded by three years or more years of college.
Optometrists are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases.
An optician is a technician, who is trained to design, verify and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight. They use prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists, but do not test vision or write prescriptions for visual correction.
FYI: Chapter 15 of the Death to Diabetes book, which provides a detailed step-by-step procedure that addresses eye health and each of the major diabetic complications. This chapter also identifies the key foods, nutrients and supplements for each diabetic complication.
Note: For more details about retinopathy and its stages, refer to our Death to Diabetes Blog.
FYI: Here's some information about organic herbal tinctures that have received excellent feedback and reviews for the health of the eyes:
Prescription Drugs -- The Answer?
Prescription drugs help to (artificially) lower your blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol -- but, are they really the answer to you improving your health?
Note: If you want to safely wean off these dangerous drugs, start a sound nutritional program and get the How to Wean Off Drugs Safely ebook.
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