How to Protect Your Eyeballs if You Have Type 2 Diabetes
Lisa is in her forties with straight black hair and a mischievous smile. She is a natural teaser so it’s hard to know when she is being serious. But for one who smiles so much, she has a lot of health problems.
Over ten years ago, Lisa was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But it didn’t phase her one bit. Her doctor simply told her to take the medications and she would be fine. She did everything she was told but continued to get worse. Her blood sugar was rarely in the normal rage. Within a few years she was injecting insulin under her skin, but her doctor was forced to increase the dose to try to get her blood sugar down. It seems like no matter what she did her blood sugar was always high. By the time Lisa was in her thirties, her feet were numb and her kidneys were starting to fail. Now, she’s in a wheelchair with her right leg amputated, she’s on dialysis for kidney failure, and she’s totally blind.
People with diabetes often notice vision changes with fluctuations in blood sugar. But, I have also had many patients say that their prescription for glasses changed as their blood sugar came down. This is due to the amount of sugar in the blood causing water to shift in and out of the eyeball through osmosis. This is not dangerous, nor does it lead to blindness.
The number one cause of blindness in the “Western World” is diabetic retinopathy. In only ten years, from 2000 to 2010 the number of cases nearly doubled!
The number of cases of diabetic retinopathy is expected to reach 11 million by 2030. Yet, this is completely preventable. We have the technology to prevent all new cases of diabetic retinopathy within a few years.
The retina, the layer in the eye that’s sensitive to light, is also very sensitive to energy. These cells need a lot of energy in the form of glucose. Without a constant supply, the cells die, causing blindness.
Glucose doesn’t automatically reach the eye; it must be brought in by glucose transport proteins called GLUT1. When the blood sugar is high all the time, GLUT1 gradually decreases. By the time a person has symptoms from diabetic retinopathy there are no more glucose transport proteins. Essentially, the retina is STARVING in a sea of sugar because it can’t cross the blood-Retina barrier to get to where it needs to be. So, the cause of blindness is simple – none of the energy from sugar is getting to the retina.
When the blood sugar is high, it becomes more concentrated in the lining of the blood vessels, causing inflammation. It also makes a hormone called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) that causes more blood vessels to form. When an ophthalmologist looks in the eye and sees more and more blood vessels, they call it “PROLIFERATIVE RETINOPATHY.” The new blood vessels also lack GLUT1 and cannot give the retina any glucose, so it doesn’t solve the problem. The damaged blood vessels become leaky causing swelling, or “MACULAR EDEMA” as well as leaking blood into the clear gel that fills the eye, called “vitreous humor.” This makes it cloudy and decreases vision.
These names for “different” eye diseases are really just different manifestations of the same problem: chronic inflammation in the eyes — the cells of the retina don’t have enough energy to function – and survive. In their need, they release hormones to improve their function, but don’t address the underlying problem – a lack of glucose – and make it worse.
The usual treatment is to use lasers to burn the extra blood vessels and stop the leaking, inject cortisone to shrink the swelling, or take the vitreous (gel) out of the eye and replace it to get rid of the blood that leaks into it. These may help the symptoms, but do not fix the problem, and people still go blind despite treatment.
Blindness from type 2 diabetes is totally preventable. If doctors told people how to prevent it there would not be a single case. Unfortunately, medical practice is over thirty years behind the research. The doctors can’t keep up with all the new information – they’re still telling their patients that taking medications and insulin will prevent blindness. It isn’t true. One large diabetes study in England in 2004 found that there were 12% fewer complications in those who weren’t on medications. They had a lower HbA1c, and higher blood pressure and cholesterol.
Type 2 Diabetes Vision Treatment and Prevention
The reason I try to explain why people with diabetes go blind is because it’s the only way to attack to root of the problem. Once we know why it happens it will be obvious what needs to be done.
The essential ingredient, of course, is to keep the blood sugar as normal as possible. If the blood glucose is high all the time, the GLUT1 glucose transport proteins will be decreased, leading to blindness. It is also worse for the retinas if there are widely fluctuating glucose levels. You don’t want to go from a glucose of 300 down to 70. This produces more inflammation in the retina.
The simplest way I have found is PHASE 1 of the Barton Publishing Diabetes Solution Kit. Phase 1 is a way to get the blood sugar down to normal by training your body to burn fat instead of sugar. This is a gradual process, not an event, so be careful that you stay with the program until your blood sugar becomes normal. It doesn’t need to be rushed. But – NO CHEATING! If you don’t stick to the 20 grams or less of net carbs, you will not see the benefits. It’s often helpful to measure your KETONES either in blood or urine to determine if you are burning fat. Ketones are the by-product of using fat for energy.
Also, remember that if you are taking medications or injecting insulin you may have to be especially careful to monitor your blood sugar, so you don’t get too low. Work with your doctor to regulate your medications as your blood glucose drops. This can take anywhere from a day to a couple weeks. The optimal range for blood glucose is between 70 and 90 during fasting. After a meal it may go up to 120 but should come down within a couple of hours.