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Next to cancer and heart attacks, the next most common fear we have is going blind. Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the world next to cataracts; however, glaucoma leads to permanent vision loss, so it’s very important to detect it and treat it early to prevent further loss of vision.

For those who have diabetes, which is a growing problem in the world, there is an increased chance of developing glaucoma (about twice as likely). In this article, I will discuss the connection of diabetes and glaucoma, with naturopathic tips on how to keep your vision healthy with diabetes.

Vision Problems in Diabetes

Three common types of vision problems can develop in those with diabetes – cataracts, retinopathy and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy and cataracts are more well understood risks in diabetes; however, less is described about the diabetes-glaucoma connection.

In glaucoma from any cause, there is an increase in the fluid-pressure within the eye. This increased fluid pressure can lead to damage of the optic nerve which then causes vision loss. In those with diabetes, there is a greater chance of developing the high eye pressure that is characteristic with glaucoma. For instance, the longer you have diabetes, the more chance you have of getting high-glucose-related and high blood pressure-related damage to the blood vessels and nerves of the eyes.

In some types of glaucoma, new abnormal blood vessels form at the iris (the coloured part of the eye) which can block the fluid drainage which is so important for regulating your eye fluid pressure.

Signs of Glaucoma

The most common type of glaucoma is called open-angle glaucoma, it’s the type that diabetics are most prone to develop. Unfortunately, there are very few early warning signs of open-angle glaucoma; the only sign that it is forming is when you gradually lose peripheral (side) vision – which can be hard to notice without an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

The next most common type of glaucoma is angle-closure glaucoma; the symptoms that may appear include: severe eye and head pain with nausea, blurred vision, sudden loss of vision, rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights.

Naturopathic vision-related tips for those with diabetes:

  1. Get your eyes checked regularly. Your risk for glaucoma increases with age, so as you age, check your eyes more regularly, even 1-2 times yearly.       Follow the guidance of your eye specialist.
  2. Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure levels in your recommended range. Take your medication as prescribed to control your glucose and blood pressure. From a naturopathic perspective, several herbs can be helpful at regulating blood pressure and blood glucose, some examples include olive leaf and barberry extracts.
  3. Exercise. Exercise helps regulate both blood glucose and blood pressure; make sure you are including an exercise strategy for your overall health.       Reduce head-down postures as this can temporarily raise eye pressure.
  4. Eat responsibly. Consult a nutritionist to help guide your eating so that you develop better eating habits. Generally, focus on a high-fibre containing diet with plenty of vegetables.
  5. Stretch your eyes. An exercise from yoga involves looking in at least six directions (while keeping your head still, moving only your eyes): focus on a distant object then back to normal vision, then focus at the tip of your nose, then back to normal, then looking straight above you then back to normal, then to the right far side and back, then to the left far side and back, then straight down and back to normal vision.
  6. Foods for eye health. Several foods can protect your eyes, for example: bilberry, blueberry (berries in general), foods high in specific carotenoids (eg: dark leafy greens, bell peppers, pistachios, eggs). Several animal studies have evaluated the value of wolfberry (also known as goji berry) in preventing nerve and blood vessel-related damage in animal models of glaucoma; as a common anti-aging food used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, wolfberry can be a healthy addition to your diet.
Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.