Can diabetic retinopathy be reversed with diet? The answer to this question needs depth information about diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is vision loss or blurs vision caused by prolonged diabetes. Early-stage detection of diabetic retinopathy can be cured by taking a healthy diet and consulting the ophthalmologist. But once diabetic retinopathy reaches its critical or severe stage, treatment controls it, as a complete cure could be difficult.
So, prevention is the best cure in the case of diabetic retinopathy. This article will learn about stages and types of diabetic retinopathy, causes of the disease, risk associated with it, diabetic retinopathy treatment in Ayurveda, surgery, food and nutrition intake, and much more about diabetic retinopathy. We will also evaluate the question Can diabetic retinopathy be reversed with diet?
Vital Information on diabetic retinopathy
The retina is at the back of both eyes like a thin lining. It helps in transforming light and sending signals to the brain. If this retina is harmed, the brain cannot decode the signals leading to a disease called retinopathy. Diabetic patients are the most prone to this disease, and it is termed Diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is vision loss or even blindness caused to high diabetic patients. It can happen to anyone having type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It is caused because of prolonged uncontrolled diabetes. It occurs when blood sugar levels become high and start damaging blood vessels in the retina. This can lead to damaged vision if not controlled at the right time.
Fluid gets stored in the macula (the center region of the retina), leading to diabetic retinopathy. In more than 50 % of cases, it is the reason for vision loss in diabetic patients.
Risk associated with diabetic retinopathy
Some of the risks associated with diabetic retinopathy are:
- Black spots in eyes
- Night vision issues
- Unclear vision
- Colour blindness
- Eyesight reduction
Anyone who has diabetes can eventually develop diabetic retinopathy. The risk of it enhances in case of:
- Prolonged diabetes
- No control over blood sugar
- High cholesterol
- Tobacco consumption
Different types of diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy can be classified into two categories:
- Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR)
- Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)
Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR) is an initial stage of diabetic retinopathy. During this stage, symptoms are mild. It is the most common between the two. In this, the walls of the retina blood vessels get weak, leading to leakage of fluid and blood in the retina.
However, in NPDR, there is no abnormal growth of blood vessels. That is why it is also called Early diabetic retinopathy. Sometimes during NPDR, the large retinal vessels start getting dilated, changing their natural size. This causes swelling in the nerve fibers and macula.
Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR) is a severe stage of diabetic retinopathy. This is caused when earlier blocked blood vessels get closed, leading to the formation of new blood vessels in the retina and vitreous. This is because the retina lacks oxygen.
They are likely to fill the center of the eyes with blood or fluid. This is also known as advanced diabetic retinopathy. The growth of abnormal blood vessels also leads to the growth of scar tissues, resulting in the breakage of the retina from the eye. New blood vessels also impact the eye fluid flow, building pressure on the eyeball.
Four stages of diabetic retinopathy
Experts have divided diabetic retinopathy into four stages:
Stage 1: Mild Non-proliferative Retinopathy
Stage 2: Moderate Non-proliferative Retinopathy
Stage 3: Severe Non-proliferative Retinopathy
Stage 4: Proliferative Retinopathy
Let us talk about each of these stages now:
Mild Non-proliferative Retinopathy: This is the first stage of diabetic retinopathy. In this stage, little swelling occurs inside the retina blood vessels. This swelling is somewhat like a balloon. A person can avoid vising the eye specialist.
Moderate Non-proliferative Retinopathy: At this stage, the balloon-like swelling becomes bigger and larger, blocking some of the blood vessels. Patient under this stage has 12%-27% chances to reach the fourth stage in 1 year.
Severe Non-proliferative Retinopathy: By this stage, most of the blood vessels get blocked, leading to the deficient blood supply to the retina. Due to a lack of blood supply, new blood vessels start growing. Patient under this stage has 52% chance of reaching the fourth stage within one year.
Proliferative Retinopathy: This is the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. A considerable amount of growth of new blood vessels damages the retina. These new blood vessels are weak and fragile, leaking blood and fluid into the retina. This can lead to blindness or vision problems.
Critical features of diabetic retinopathy
Features of diabetic retinopathy can include:
- Microaneurysms: Red tiny dots surrounded by a yellowish ring in the eyes.
- Intraretinal hemorrhage: Blot and dots of dense red shape outlines
- Exudates: Leaking of fluid from the blood vessels
- Cotton-wool spots: White tiny area on the retina, because of lack of blood flow
- Macular edema: Fluid build-up in the center of the retina
- Macular ischemia: Closure of blood vessels leading to loss of supply of blood to the eye.
- Neovascularization: Growth of new abnormal blood vessels under the retina
- Vitreous hemorrhage: Extra supply of blood into the vitreous body
- Traction retinal detachment: Detachment of neurosensory retina from RPE (Retinal pigment epithelium).
Food to prevent diabetic retinopathy
A list of nutrition values important for the eye is mentioned below with the food items they are found in. The list is also important to avoid diabetic retinopathy:
- Vitamin A: leafy greens, sweet potato, carrots, fish, eggs, and pumpkin
- Vitamin C: broccoli, cabbage, oranges, sweet peppers, kiwi, papaya, and strawberry
- Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, fish, and almonds
- Lutein: spinach, corns, peas, green leafy vegetables
- Zinc: seafood, pumpkin seeds, lean meat, fish
- Selenium: fish, seafood, nuts, and seeds
Natural intake of these nutrients are highly suggested and not supplements.
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy
If one is suffering from diabetes, extra care needs to be taken at an early stage to avoid diabetic retinopathy. Maintaining and monitoring blood sugar levels, doing regular exercise, taking a proper diet, and going for regular eye check-ups are some of the ways to avoid the danger of diabetic retinopathy.
Specific diagnosis and tests can examine the disease very easily, like physical evaluation with dilated eyes, OCT (Optical coherence tomography), and contrast dye angiography.
However, if one has reached the stage where treatment is needed, diabetic retinopathy treatment in Ayurveda and other treatments is effective and has shown positive results in the past.
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy in Ayurveda
Diabetic retinopathy treatment in ayurvedic involves prevention and cure. As prevention, one should follow the following:
- Control Blood sugar level
- Control blood pressures
- No smoking
- At least once a year, an eye check-up
- Eyewash at least three times a day
In the early symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, Shirodhara and Netraseka are advised.
As a cure for diabetic retinopathy in Ayurveda, one should follow:
- Getting treatment of diabetes
- Raktapitta Management
- Prevention of loss of dhatu
- Maintaining samagni
- Improving blood circulation
There are many diabetic retinopathy treatments in Ayurveda like Vata Shaman, Pitta Shaman, Takradhara, and Netra Seka that are effective in preventing or curing diabetic retinopathy. Deep healing therapies like Rasayana also provide rejuvenating formulations.
Treatment of diabetic retinopathy as surgery
In India, many hospitals are treating diabetic retinopathy successfully. There are three surgical treatments possible for diabetic retinopathy:
Photocoagulation or laser treatment:
It stops the blood leakage or fluid flow in the eyes. Doctors burn the abnormal growth of blood vessels using laser treatment. It can be done in a doctor’s clinic in one session, and mostly no hospitalization is required.
In Vitrectomy, blood stains are removed from the center of the eye using an incision. The retina is also cleaned from the blood of the scar tissues. For this treatment, hospitalization is needed.
Injection of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) helps in shrinking the blood vessels.
Treatment in special cases:
Type 1 diabetic should get an eye examination done from the ophthalmologist within 3-5 years of diabetic detection. Type 2 diabetic should have an early evaluation of the disease. Subsequent evaluation of both types of diabetes should be repeated annually.
a pregnant woman with pre-existing diabetes should get their eye examination done in the first trimester only and regular check-ups throughout the pregnancy.
Diabetic retinopathy treatment is not permanent. There are possibilities of eye problems coming again, so regular eye check-ups are a must to prevent it. Some of the side effects of it are eye turns red, and one has to wear an eye patch for few weeks. Some medicated eye drops are suggested to avoid infection.
Natural or home remedies of diabetic retinopathy
Natural or home remedies of diabetic retinopathy are also considered economical treatment as most of the materials are readily available in the kitchen. But they are not permanent treatments and not effective in case of severe or last stages of diabetic retinopathy. Some of the home remedies are:
Bottle Gourd Juice
Consumption of bottle gourd in the morning daily is considered to have a great result in controlling diabetic retinopathy. Bottle gourd is rich in Vitamin C, which is very useful for eyesight.
Sandalwood is great pain relief. Applying a paste of original sandalwood on eyelids gives a lot of relief in diabetic retinopathy. Ensuring the paste should not enter the eyes is important as it can have more harm than benefits.
Amla juice contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folic acid, and minerals; they are very important for eyesight. Every day consuming amla juice in the morning, empty stomach helps a great in diabetic retinopathy treatment.
Fenugreek seeds are perfect for cholesterol control. Cholesterol is one of the factors of diabetic retinopathy also. It can be taken in any form at any point of the day.
It is obtained from plants, and it has high nutrition value.
Cost of diabetic retinopathy treatment in India
The treatment may cost between Rs 60,000 – Rs 80,000. Although, certain factors impact the cost. They are mentioned below:
- Type of Hospital
- City or location of hospital
- Surgeon/doctor’s fees
- Evaluation tests cost
- Post medical cost of basic eye drops.
However, diabetic retinopathy treatment in Ayurveda is comparatively less costly.
Data of diabetic retinopathy in India
Data shows the total number of diabetic patients in the world is 425 million approximately. Out of this, around 80% of people will develop retinopathy sooner or later. The Union Health Ministry’s report revealed, 16.9% of people suffer from Diabetic Retinopathy, while sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy is present in 3.6% of patients.
Can diabetic retinopathy be reversed?
Treatment modalities are prevalent that can delay or avert diabetic retinopathy and stop vision loss in a large population of diabetic patients. Prevention is the best cure in the case of diabetic retinopathy. So, the best way to avoid blindness or reaching the critical stage is to be on top of your health.
- Following instructions and guidance of your doctor
- regular check-ups
- eye examination
- monitoring blood sugar levels
These could help to avoid reaching the critical situation of illness. Diet check and regular exercise can’t be ignored; they might not show results in the short term but have a great long-term impact.
Although reversing diabetic retinopathy is possible in case the early symptoms are noticed and treated. Also, maintaining blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure at an optimal level is the key to control it. Diet and nutrition suggestions are already mentioned and can reverse or control the early stage of the disease.
Reversing Diabetic Retinopathy at later stages is not possible, as even after laser treatment or Vitrectomy, chances of black spots or growth of blood vessels in the eyes is possible. Regular monitoring of eyes, even after surgery, is mandatory. Diabetic retinopathy treatment in Ayurveda is also proving to be successful.
Remember, diabetes may not compulsorily lead to vision loss; proactive action to manage it can help to avoid complications.