Diabetic retinopathy (DR), the leading cause of visual disability and blindness among adults in the developed world, may affect as many as 20 million people. Early detection and treatment are keys to preventing vision loss and blindness associated with the disease. Unfortunately, only about half of those with diabetes have proper eye examinations on a yearly basis. It is very important that diabetics have a dilated eye exam each year.
Retinopathy damages the retina by destroying the capillaries (minuscule blood vessels connecting arteries and veins) that provide blood to the retina, the light-sensitive nerve tissue that sends visual images to the brain. With the onset of retinopathy, these vessels weaken or bulge with microaneurysms that may hemorrhage, leaking blood or fluid into surrounding tissue. New blood vessels that grow on the retina (and into the vitreous) can cause blurred vision and even temporary blindness. Ultimately, scar tissue forms, detaching the retina from the back of the eye and often causing permanent vision loss.
Chronically elevated blood insulin and glucose levels induce retinopathy. However, research shows that even after having long-term diabetes, lowering glucose has a positive effect on slowing the progression of retinopathy. A glycohemoglobin (also known as hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c) test is the best measurement of long-term glucose control. A high HbA1c number correlates with uncontrolled diabetes.
A study took place involving 834 people who were over the age of 30 years when they developed diabetes, and approximately 65 years at the start of the study. A HbA1c test, physical exam, and eye exam were performed at baseline, 4- and 10-year follow-up visits. In non-insulin treated participants, those that had the highest HbA1c levels at baseline had nearly a 3-fold greater risk of developing retinopathy after 10 years than those with the lowest levels. In participants already showing proof of retinopathy at baseline, the presence of elevated HbA1c resulted in a 4-fold greater risk of retinopathy progression, and a 14-fold greater risk of proliferative retinopathy.
In those people using insulin treatments and having the highest HbA1c levels, there was a 90% greater risk of developing retinopathy than those with the lowest levels. Researchers concluded that controlling hyperglycemia, even later on in the course of diabetes, will result in a significant decrease in the incidence and progression of retinopathy as well as the development of visual loss (Klein 1994). Studies show that controlling excess serum insulin is also important in preventing retinopathy (Raccah 1998; Boehm 2002; Leslie 2002).
There are additional precautions that can be taken to guard against the development of retinopathies. Vitamin B6 deficiency, for instance, is a proven cause of the disease. In order to rule out a nutritional deficiency as the cause of retinopathy, a 10-week program is suggested that incorporates a high-potency B-complex vitamin formula along with other supplements described in this protocol.