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Here’s a little bit about what diabetic retinopathy actually is…
and constant high blood sugar
causes changes in the blood vessels of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. A healthy retina is essential for good vision.
In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels swell and leak fluid.
In others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.
At first, you may not notice changes to your vision. But over time, it can get worse and lead to blindness.
And it’s so detrimental because diabetic retinopathy always affects both eyes.
Two ways in which diabetic retinopathy cause vision loss
Because diabetic retinopathy damages your blood vessels it can cause vision loss in two ways:
1. Fluid can leak into the center of the macula, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This condition is macular edema.
It can occur at any stage of diabetic retinopathy, although it’s more likely to occur as the disease progresses.
2. Fragile, abnormal blood vessels can develop and leak blood into the centre of the eye, blurring your vision. This is proliferative retinopathy
and is the fourth and most advanced stage of the disease.
Here’s how it affects your eyes:
Normal vision With diabetic retinopathy
Researchers are tirelessly trying to find ways to detect, treat and prevent vision loss in diabetics
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is conducting and supporting research that seeks better ways to help protect diabetic’s vision.
This research is conducted through studies in the laboratory and with patients.
For example, researchers are studying alternative treatments that may stop the retina from sending signals to the body to grow new blood vessels. Soon, these treatments will help people control their diabetic retinopathy and reduce the need for laser surgery.
In the meantime, the following five supplements have shown benefits in those with diabetic retinopathy,
says Dr Golding.
Natural diabetic retinopathy treatment options:
is a combination of two herbal extracts: Bilberry and French Maritime pine bark. Both extracts have antioxidant properties to strengthen the capillaries in the retina, making them a first-line defence against retinopathy. Furthermore, bilberry contains anthocyanosides and other flavonoids that improve circulation and discourage inflammation in eye tissues, and pine bark also helps increase blood flow throughout the body.
Studies have also found that bilberry and pin bark are effective natural diabetic retinopathy treatments. In one study, people with diabetic retinopathy took 20mg to 160 mg of Pycnogenol daily. After six months, none of the participants had experienced any additional vision loss. Look for Mirtogenol in products targeting vision health
, and use as directed.
2. Grape seed extract
is another powerful antioxidant that protects blood vessels and capillaries from free radical damage. Research shows that grape seed extract can help prevent diabetic retinopathy. The recommended dose of grape seed extract is 1mg per 0.5Kilogram of body weight (round your weight up or down to the nearest 20kg), in divided doses with meals, for the first week. Then continue with a maintenance dose of half that amount. For example, if you weigh 95kg, take 200mg a day for the first week, and then continue taking 100mg a day.
is a fat
-soluble, highly absorbable form of thiamine (vitamin B1). According to researchers, benfotiamine blocks three of the major culprits responsible for blood vessel damage in patients with elevated blood sugar levels
. As a result, it helps prevent retinopathy and other diabetes
complications. The suggested dose is 300mg of benfotiamine per day.
Studies show that people with the lowest levels of this important mineral are the most likely to have severe diabetic retinopathy. Dr Golding recommend 500mg to 1,000mg of magnesium per day
for diabetic retinopathy treatment.
5. Ginkgo Biloba.
Laboratory studies have shown that ginkgo
improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less sticky. It's also an antioxidant.
For those reasons, ginkgo
may improve vein and eye health. Although not all studies agree, ginkgo
may help treat dementia
(including Alzheimer's disease) and intermittent claudication, or poor circulation in the legs. It may also protect memory in older adults. Recommended dose of 40mg three times a day.
While the therapies Dr Golding suggests are effective at addressing retinopathy, he also recommends having an eye examination at least once a year to ensure blindness isn’t part of your future.